The effects on pancreatic growth and plasma CCK concentration of chronic feeding of camostate (400 mg/kg day for 10 days), a potent inhibitor of serine proteases including trypsin, were assessed in the mouse. For comparison, the trophic effects of chronic exogenous administration of CCK octapeptide (sc injection of 1 microgram/kg day every eight hours for 10 days) were also studied. In addition, the effects of a proglumide-analogue CCK-receptor antagonist (CR1409) on the stimulatory actions of camostate feeding and chronic administration of exogenous CCK were studied. The effects of the combination of chronic camostate feeding and sc injections of CCK, the effects of acute camostate feeding, and the effects of the CCK-receptor antagonist given without camostate or CCK were also studied. The results show that chronic camostate feeding markedly increased CCK plasma concentrations eight-fold over control values, and that acute camostate feeding increased plasma concentration to four fold of control values. Correspondingly, chronic camostate feeding markedly increased pancreatic weight, protein and DNA content. Exogenous CCK-8 also had qualitatively similar, but quantitatively less potent stimulatory effects. The combination of camostate and CCK-8 resulted in an additive stimulatory effect. The trophic actions of exogenous and endogenous CCK grossly increased chymotrypsinogen content, but left amylase content unaffected. The CCK-receptor antagonist CR 1409 completely abolished the trophic effects of exogenous CCK and greatly inhibited the effects of chronic camostate feeding. The CCK antagonist decreased pancreatic weight, DNA and protein content compared to control values when given without any CCK or camostate. We conclude that the protease inhibitor camostate is a very strong release effector of CCK and exerts a powerful trophic effect on mouse pancreas which is probably mediated by CCK. Furthermore, physiological increases of CCK during feeding of regular chow appear to exert trophic effects on the exocrine pancreas.