Considerable progress has been made in synthesizing peptide analogs with improved stability for probing function of peptide-receptor systems. However, since peptide ligands are usually unsuitable for development as potent orally active long-duration therapeutic agents, considerable research effort is being directed to the development of non-peptidal ligands. Roger Freidinger compares the lead compounds that have now been described in the opioid, CCK-gastrin and angiotensin II fields, and discusses the progress that has been made in other receptor fields. Most of the successes have been achieved through screening natural sources and synthetic collections. Rational design based on the natural peptide ligand has been more difficult, although ACE inhibitors have been effectively developed from a nonapeptide lead.