The study was undertaken to examine regional differences in the concentrations of five regulatory peptides in the human colonic mucosa. Biopsies were obtained during routine colonoscopy from 33 patients whose colonic mucosa was macroscopically and histologically normal. Regulatory peptides were extracted, and measured by specific radioimmunoassays. Concentrations of three peptides that are present predominantly in endocrine cells within colonic mucosa increased significantly towards the rectum: Mean concentrations of peptide YY, enteroglucagon, and somatostatin were about three times greater in the rectum than in the cecum. However, concentrations of two peptides that are present in mucosal nerve fibers diminished significantly towards the rectum: Mean rectal concentrations of vasoactive intestinal peptide and peptide histidine methionine were both about 0.6 of mean cecal concentrations. Concentrations of all five peptides were lower in biopsies taken from colonic polyps than in normal colonic mucosa. Regional differences in colonic mucosal concentrations of regulatory peptides probably reflect differences in the physiological functions of different parts of the colon.