Bombesin, a peptide with widespread biological actions, has been demonstrated in human tissues by immunological methods. To investigate its effect in man, synthetic bombesin was infused at low doses in six male volunteers. Bombesin at 2.4 pmol kg-1 min-1 produced significant rises in plasma insulin, glucagon, pancreatic polypeptide, gastrin, cholecystokinin, motilin, glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide, neurotensin, enteroglucagon, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide, and serum calcium. In contrast, bombesin caused a profound fall in parathyroid hormone levels and reduced plasma glucose concentrations. A late rise in plasma calcitonin was also observed. Bombesin had no significant effect on the pituitary hormones, TSH, GH, PRL, or cortisol. No hormonal changes or alterations in calcium were noted during saline infusions. Bombesin has a marked stimulatory effect on gastrointestinal hormones, which is unique and opposite to the effect of somatostatin, a potent inhibitor of gut hormone release. Bombesin also influences calcium-regulating hormones, either directly or through its action on gut hormones. The bombesin concentrations achieved with the dosages used were low enough to indicate a possible physiological role for the endogenous peptide.