The pharmacokinetics of purified synthetic oxyntomodulin were studied after infusing it into euglycaemic pigs at two rates. The elimination of the peptide from plasma was characterized by two components, a fast one (t1/2 7.2 +/- 0.6 min) and a slow one (t1/2 20.4 +/- 3.8 min) (mean +/- S.E.M., n = 7). The metabolic clearance rate was independent of infusion rate (6.96 +/- 0.99 vs 7.44 +/- 0.98 ml/kg . min (mean +/- S.E.M., n = 7). The synthetic peptide bound to pig hepatic glucagon receptors, but with approximately 2% of the affinity of glucagon, and showed insulinotropic and somatostatinotropic effects when infused into isolated perfused pig pancreases at concentrations higher than 10(-10) M. A dose-dependent increase was also shown for pancreatic glucagon output. A naturally occurring peptide, identified as oxyntomodulin by gel filtration and HPLC, was released into the circulation from the pig lower small intestinal mucosa upon intraluminal administration of glucose, and represented 25 +/- 3.8% of the secreted glucagon-like immunoreactivity. 11 +/- 2.3% of the secreted glucagon-like immunoreactivity was indistinguishable from glucagon itself upon gel filtration; thus at least 36% of the glucagon-like immunoreactivity secreted from the intestinal mucosa is already in an active form.