In anesthetized cats, the unitary activity of 66 sensory vagal neurones was recorded with extracellular glass microelectrodes implanted in the nodose ganglia. These neurones had non-medullated afferent fibres with conduction velocities between 0.8 and 1.2 m/s, as do most of the intestinal vagal fibres, and were silent or fired at low frequencies before any simulation. They were activated by perfusion of the small intestine (duodenum and first part of jejunum) with tap water and various solutions (glucose, NaCl and mannitol, in particular) having osmotic pressures ranged between 4 and 1100 mOsm. In general, hypotonic solutions and tap water induced the more marked responses, but differences were observed according to the solution used. Most of these neurones were also excited by other forms of stimulation including stroking of the mucosa and perfusion with warm (39-55 degrees C) and acid (HCl at pH 1) solutions. Therefore they must be considered to be polymodal receptors sensitive to osmotic pressure. The short latency of responses elicited by osmotic stimulations, the marked sensitivity to mucosal stroking and the disappearance of nervous activity after local anesthesia indicate that these receptors are located close to the epithelium. The role of these osmosensitive endings is discussed. Analysis of their general characteristics suggests that they may be involved in the inhibitory entero-gastric reflex modulating gastric emptying.