We have studied the effect of a novel tachykinin, neuropeptide gamma (NP gamma) on small intestinal motility in the rat. Experiments were done in vitro on longitudinal muscle strips of duodenum, and in vivo on the migrating myoelectric complex (MMC) of the small intestine. In vitro, contractile effects of NP gamma were compared with those of a selective neurokinin 1 (NK1) receptor agonist, substance P methyl ester (SPME), and a selective neurokinin 2 (NK2) receptor agonist, Nle10-NKA(4-10)(NleNKA). NP gamma, SPME and NleNKA caused concentration-dependent contractions (P < 0.001). NP gamma was eight-fold more potent than NleNKA, and 118-fold more potent than SPME. Contractile responses to NP gamma were reduced by hexamethonium (P < 0.01) and atropine (P < 0.05). The non-selective NK receptor antagonist spantide I only slightly reduced the contractile response to NP gamma, as did the selective NK1 antagonist GR 82,334, and the selective NK2 antagonist L-659,877 and MEN 10,376. In vivo, effects of NP gamma on the MMC were compared with those of the natural tachykinins substance P (SP) and neurokinin A (NKA). NP gamma disrupted the MMC and induced irregular spiking in a dose-dependent manner from 25 to 100 pmol kg-1 min-1 i.v. (P < 0.05). The effect of NP gamma was more prominent than that of NKA at equal doses, while SP had no effect. Our findings show that NP gamma exerts potent stimulatory effects on small intestinal motility, most likely mediated directly via distinct NK receptors on smooth muscle cells, but also indirectly via a cholinergic link.