Thirteen natural bombesin-like peptides and 14 synthetic analogues were submitted to parallel bioassay on 9 smooth muscle preparations in order to determine their relative potency, in comparison to bombesin and litorin. The natural peptides of the bombesin subfamily showed a uniformly high or moderate potency on all preparations. However, synthetic bombesins of shorter chain length (hepta- and octapeptides) manifested a good potency only on the rat uterus preparation. Among the peptides of the litorin and phyllolitorin subfamilies, only litorin and ranatensin presented a full spectrum of potency, equalling or even surpassing that of bombesin. All other natural and synthetic members of the two subfamilies showed a sharply dissociated spectrum of potency on the different smooth muscle preparations. The only exception was the rat urinary bladder and, in part, the chicken intestine, on which the peptides displayed a uniformly high potency, comparable to, or even greater than that of bombesin. The present results help to explain structure/activity relationships and suggest the probable existence, in the periphery, of multiple bombesin receptor subtypes.