Guanylin, uroguanylin, and the bacterial heat-stable enterotoxin (ST) peptides comprise a new family of cyclic guanosine 3'-5' monophosphate (cGMP)-regulating agonists. The discovery of guanylin and uroguanylin peptides stems from studies of cellular mechanisms underlying a form of secretory diarrhea caused by enteric bacteria. Guanylin, uroguanylin, and microbial ST peptides activate a common apical membrane receptor-guanylate cyclase (R-GC) that elicits large increases in the intestinal secretion of chloride and bicarbonate via the intracellular second messenger, cGMP. Guanylin and uroguanylin were isolated from rat jejunum and opossum urine, respectively. These peptides are endogenous peptide hormones that physiologically regulate R-GC signaling proteins in target cells. Physiological roles for these peptides include the regulation of epithelial cell balance in the intestinal epithelium and modulation of sodium balance through actions in the kidney. The guanylin-uroguanylin-ST peptides are candidate therapeutic agents targeting receptors in the intestine, kidney, and other epithelia. For example, uroguanylin has anti-tumor actions in an animal model for human colon cancer. The ST peptides can be used as diagnostic agents to detect secondary colon cancers by single photon-emitting computed tomography (SPECT) imaging, thus localizing metastatic forms of colon cancer. Other examples of potential therapeutic applications for the guanylin family of cGMP-regulating agonists are: (1) the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with constipation, (2) salt-dependent forms of high blood pressure, (3) liver regeneration and repair, and (4) respiratory diseases such as asthma. Competitive pharmacological antagonists of bacterial ST peptides offer a means for treating the diarrhea caused by ST-secreting strains of enteric bacteria.