Responses to adrenomedullin, a newly discovered hypotensive peptide isolated from human pheochromocytoma cells, and the carboxy terminal 15-52 (adrenomedullin-(15-52)) and 22-52 (adrenomedullin-(22-52)) amino acid fragments of adrenomedullin were investigated in the mesenteric vascular bed of the cat. Under constant flow conditions, injections of adrenomedullin, adrenomedullin-(15-52), and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) in doses of 0.003-1 nmol into the perfused superior mesenteric artery caused significant dose-related decreases in mesenteric arterial perfusion pressure. Mesenteric vasodilator responses to adrenomedullin and adrenomedullin-(15-52) were similar in magnitude and duration, while vasodilator responses to CGRP were greater in magnitude and longer in duration than those produced by adrenomedullin or adrenomedullin-(15-52) when these agents were injected in doses of 0.1-1 nmol. Adrenomedullin-(22-52) caused no significant change in mesenteric arterial perfusion pressure when injected in doses up to 10 nmol. These results suggest that amino acids 15-52 and the six-membered ring structure of adrenomedullin are important for the expression of vasodilator activity in the mesenteric vascular bed of the cat.