1. Gastric acid secretory responses to pentagastrin were characterized in the rat isolated gastric mucosa. In particular, the mechanisms underlying fade, declining response upon continued stimulation, and tachyphylaxis, progressively reduced responses upon repeated stimulation, were investigated. 2. Pentagastrin, 10(-9)-10(-7) M, resulted in concentration-related increases in acid secretion, with a mean maximum of 2.65 mumol cm-2 h-1 in response to pentagastrin, 10(-7) M. Higher concentrations of pentagastrin produced sub-maximal secretory rates; we define this as auto-inhibition. The responses to all concentrations of pentagastrin demonstrated fade. The rate of fade was correlated with the maximum acid secretory rate, declining at about 36% of the peak over the first 16 min. 3. The PO2, PCO2, [HCO3-], pH, [glucose], [lactate], [Na+] and [K+] did not decline during the fade of the acid secretory response to pentagastrin, 10(-7) M. Addition of a second aliquot of pentagastrin was not able to reverse fade, but these tissues were responsive to histamine. Replacement of the serosal solution, before addition of a second aliquot of pentagastrin, increased the acid response from 3% to 24% of the first response. 4. Serosal solution from donor tissues, allowed to respond to pentagastrin and then the acid secretion to fade, was able to stimulate secretion in fresh recipient tissues, although at lower rates. 5. Acid secretory responses to a second dose of pentagastrin were not significantly different, whether the tissues were previously unstimulated, or stimulated with pentagastrin washed out after attaining its peak secretory response (after 10-20 min). The second response was significantly reduced if the first response was allowed to fade with the pentagastrin in contact for 100 min; i.e. fade significantly influenced the extent of tachyphylaxis. 6. Proglumide, 10(-2) M, a gastrin receptor antagonist, and omeprazole, 10(-5) M, an inhibitor of the gastric (H+ + K+)-ATPase, both inhibited pentagastrin-stimulated acid secretion to similar extents. The second response to pentagastrin after pentagastrin alone, or pentagastrin plus omeprazole were both reduced compared to responses after no stimulation or omeprazole alone, respectively. After pentagastrin plus proglumide, the second response to pentagastrin was not lower than after proglumide alone. Proglumide, but not omeprazole, therefore, prevented pentagastrin tachyphylaxis. 7. It is concluded that gastrin fade and tachyphylaxis are related phenomena. Part of the fade may be due to release of an inhibitor(s). The major proportion of tachyphylaxis is a result of specific interaction of gastrin with its receptors.