The present study investigates the inhibitory effect of the novel potent benzodiazepine-related CCK-antagonist L-364,718 on pancreatic growth in the rat induced by chronic administration of caerulein and bombesin-like peptides. Caerulein, injected s.c. twice daily at a dose of 1 microgram/kg body weight, and bombesin (10 micrograms/kg) induced a similar increase (1.5-3-fold) in pancreatic wet weight, total protein, amylase, trypsin, putrescine and spermidine content after 14 days of treatment. Growth induced by caerulein showed a significant increase in total DNA content suggesting cellular hyperplasia, whereas bombesin-like peptides led to cellular hypertrophy. In comparison to bombesin the decapeptide neuromedin C (10 micrograms/kg) was found to be 30-50% less potent. In the same dose range, neuromedin B and the tachykinins neurokinin A and B, all structurally related to bombesin, had no significant trophic effect on the rat pancreas. Administration of the CCK-antagonist L-364,718 twice daily at a dose of 0.1 mg/kg or at 1.0 mg/kg, either s.c. or orally, led dose-dependently to a near-complete inhibition of the caerulein-induced trophic effect. In contrast, L-364,718 administered at identical dosages, did not affect pancreatic hypertrophy induced by bombesin and neuromedin C. It is concluded that both peptides mediate their effect on the rat pancreas directly and not via release of endogenous cholecystokinin. Tachykinins are not involved in the regulation of pancreatic growth. Caerulein- and bombesin-like peptides have comparable effects on the stimulation of protein and polyamine synthesis.