The human urotensin II (UII) precursor encompasses several potential cleavage sites and thus, processing of pro-UII may generate various forms of mature UII including the peptides of 11 (UII11), 16 (UII16) and 19 (UII19) residues. Until now, the native form of human UII had not been characterized. Here, we show that the major UII peptide occurring in the human spinal cord corresponds to UII11. In contrast, neither the UII16 nor the UII19 forms could be detected. In 50% of the brainstem and in all the spinal cord extracts analysed, a second minor UII-immunoreactive peptide was resolved. Immunohistochemical labelling of the cervical segment of the human spinal cord revealed that the UII-immunoreactive material was confined to a subset of ventral horn motoneurones. These data provide the first evidence that in the human, the UII precursor, expressed in motoneurones, is processed at the tribasic KKR93 cleavage site to generate a mature form of UII of 11 amino acids. The absence of N-terminally elongated forms of UII of 16 and 19 residues indicates that pro-UII is not cleaved at the R85 or K88 monobasic sites. Finally, the minor UII-immunoreactive peptide detected in several tissue extracts might correspond to an extended form of UII resulting from the processing of the UII precursor at the basic RK50 or RK66 doublets.