The effects of opioids were compared in five field-stimulated isolated tissue models, the guinea-pig ileum and vasa deferentia from rat, rabbit and mice of the Alderley Park and C57BL/6 strains. Although the mu-receptor agonist [D-Ala2, MePhe4, Gly-ol5] enkephalin appeared to act at similar receptors in the guinea-pig ileum, rat vas deferens, mouse vas deferens and C57BL/6 mouse vas deferens preparations, its potency varied considerably between these preparations. Similar potency differences were also observed with the kappa-agonist, ethylketocyclazocine. It is proposed that these variations in potency reflect differences in the number of spare receptors present in each model. The finding that some drugs which have agonist activity in the more sensitive preparations behave as antagonists in the less sensitive tissues supports this proposal and highlights the importance of intrinsic activity in determining the action of opioids. Many of the prototypic opioid agonists were found to be either partial agonists (eg. morphine and bremazocine) or to possess affinity for more than one receptor type (eg. ethylketocyclazocine, Mr 2034).