Although oxyntic cell secretion can be studied at many organisation levels between isolated cell suspensions and non-invasive techniques in animals, the isolated, lumen-perfused, stomach preparation of the mouse represents a hierarchical level which eliminates extrinsic regulatory influences but retains all the cellular architecture known to be necessary for physiological responses and so can be defined as the physiological unit of acid secretion. The feeding pattern before and the distending pressure during an experiment have been identified as the main determinants of basal secretion: the combination of an intragastric pressure of 12 cmH2O and the fasted state generated a stable basal secretion over 2 h providing a satisfactory basis for bioassays. Basal acid secretion was lowered by treatment with omeprazole and sodium thiocyanate but not with tetrodotoxin, N-methylatropine or tiotidine, suggesting that basal secretion does not involve nervous stimulation or the local release of histamine under these experimental conditions. The improved assay permitted the full characterization of cumulative agonist concentration-effect curves in single stomach preparations to histamine, 5-methylfurmethide, pentagastrin and isobutyl-methylxanthine. Interestingly, pentagastrin produced sustained stimulation of gastric acid secretion under conditions when there was no pharmacological evidence that histamine secretion was taking place. This finding is discussed in relation to the role of histamine in the control of gastric acid secretion.