The peptide ligand neuromedin U (NMU) has been implicated in an array of biological activities, including contraction of uterine, intestinal and urinary bladder smooth muscle. However, many of these responses appear to be species-specific. This study was undertaken to fully elucidate the range of smooth muscle-stimulating effects of NMU in rats, mice and guinea-pigs, and to examine the extent of the species differences. In addition, the NMU1 receptor knockout mouse was used to determine which receptor subtype mediates the contractile responses generated by NMU in the mouse. A range of isolated organ in vitro bioassays were carried out, which were chosen to re-confirm previous literature reports (uterine and stomach fundus contraction) and also to explore potentially novel smooth muscle responses to NMU. This investigation uncovered a number of previously unidentified NMU-mediated responses: contraction of rat lower esophageal sphinster (LES), rat ileum, mouse gallbladder, enhancement of electrically evoked contractions in rat and mouse vas deferens, and a considerable degree of cross-species differences. Studies using the NMU1 receptor knockout mice revealed that in the mouse fundus and gallbladder assays the NMU contractile response was mediated entirely through the NMU1 receptor subtype, whereas, in assays of mouse uterus and vas deferens, the response to NMU was unchanged in the NMU1 receptor knockout mouse, suggesting that the NMU response may be mediated through the NMU2 receptor subtype. NMU receptor subtype-selective antagonists are required to further elucidate the role of the individual receptor subtypes.