In the present study we demonstrate by immunohistochemical techniques that calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) is present in nerve terminals in the islets of Langerhans. Furthermore, binding studies with 125I-CGRP indicate that dispersed acini from guinea pig pancreas contain a single class of high-affinity binding sites for CGRP with an apparent dissociation constant of 18 nM. Vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), rat growth hormone-releasing factor (rGRF), cholecystokinin octapeptide (CCK-OP), and bombesin do not interact with these receptors. Interaction of CGRP with these receptors leads to release of amylase from the acinar cells. Amylase release is half maximal at 0.3 nM CGRP and maximal at 3 nM CGRP. Maximal amylase release with CGRP is one-third of that observed with VIP. CGRP-induced amylase release is dependent on theophylline in the incubation medium. CGRP potentiates the amylase release stimulated by bombesin and CCK-OP but has no effect on amylase release stimulated by VIP, rGRF, and natural glucagon. CGRP stimulates a 25% increase in basal cellular cAMP. These results indicate that guinea pig pancreatic acinar cells contain a novel receptor for CGRP and that interaction of CGRP with this receptor leads to digestive enzyme secretion through a cAMP-mediated pathway. The presence of CGRP in the islets of Langerhans suggests a pathway for CGRP to reach the exocrine pancreas through an insuloacinar portal system.