The myenteric plexus consists of several subpopulations of morphologically and chemically distinct neurons known to contain a variety of peptides and amines, one of which is serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine). These neurons are considered essential for nerve-to-nerve transmission. In the present study, we investigated the effect of 5,6- and 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine (5,6-DHT; 5,7-DHT), indoleamine neurotoxins that selectively and irreversibly injure the serotonergic neurons of the myenteric plexus. Treatment with 5,6-, or 5,7-DHT caused marked disruption of the activity front of the migrating myoelectric complex (MMC), increased its duration, and decreased its propagation velocity. At higher doses, 5,7-DHT also reduced the slow-wave frequency. Immunohistochemical techniques showed that tissue from rats treated with 5,7-DHT was depleted of serotonin-like immunoreactivity within the myenteric plexus neurons. Reserpine also caused motility and immunohistochemical changes similar to those induced by the two neurotoxins. Therefore, destruction of enteric serotonergic neurons disrupts the MMC. These studies support the cellular concepts that serotonergic neurons function as interneurons in the myenteric plexus, modulating and processing the neural stimuli, and that serotonin is an important neurotransmitter in the small intestine.