We studied the effects of involuntary and voluntary contraction of the diaphragm on esophagogastric junction (EGJ) pressure during esophageal distension in healthy human volunteers. The EGJ pressure was monitored using a Dent sleeve device. Along with the pressure we concurrently monitored diaphragm electromyogram (EMG) using intra-esophageal bipolar electrodes that were placed on the nonpressure sensing surface of the sleeve device. Graded esophageal distensions were performed by graded inflations of a 2-cm-diameter balloon that was positioned 7 cm above the EGJ. The graded esophageal distensions caused a graded increase in the amplitude of lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxation (end-expiratory EGJ pressure). In a majority of the subjects, esophageal distension had no effect on spontaneous inspiratory EGJ pressure increase and diaphragm EMG. During sustained LES relaxation of greater than 70% induced by sustained esophageal distention, graded voluntary contractions of the diaphragm induced proportional increases in the EGJ pressure and diaphragm EMG. The EGJ pressure and diaphragm EMG were similar during diaphragmatic contraction both before and during esophageal distension. During a maximal and sustained diaphragm contraction, esophageal distension had no effect on the EGJ pressure. We conclude that there are two distinct sphincteric mechanisms at the EGJ, the LES and crural diaphragm, and they respond differently to distension of the distal esophagus.