Intracellular recordings were made from myenteric neurons of the guinea-pig duodenum and the responses to local ejection of several substance P (SP) analogs were examined. It was found that senktide (succinyl-[Asp6,Me-Phe8]SP-(6-11)), a selective analog for the NK-3 (SP-N) receptor, was particularly effective in depolarizing the neurons. It was 20-100 times more potent than SP and about 1000-fold more potent than the selective analogs for the NK-1 (SP-P) receptor, which resides on muscle cells. The response to the peptides was prolonged (20-120 s), but in about 20% of the cells there was a fast, early depolarizing component (observed only with senktide). In most cases there was an increase in the input resistance of the cell during the slow depolarization. Together with the finding that the response reversed at about -90 mV, this indicates that the response is due to the closure of K+ channels. The results support the existence of an NK-3 (SP-N) receptor and provide direct information about the membrane mechanisms through which NK-3 agonists excite myenteric neurons.