Recent data revealed the existence of specific receptors for glucagon-like peptide-1(7-36)amide (GLP-1) on rat lung membranes. Utilizing slide-mount autoradiography of fresh frozen lung tissue sections, we have localized binding sites for GLP-1 on mucous glands in the trachea and on vascular smooth muscle of the pulmonary artery. When tracheas were incubated in a modified Ussing chamber, the addition of GLP-1 to the submucosal side increased 35S-sulfate-labeled macromolecule secretion (191 +/- 12% above basal, P < 0.005). The optimal secretory response elicited by GLP-1 was approximately 23% of the maximal secretory response after a maximal acetylcholine stimulation. Other proglucagon-derived peptides such as glucagon, oxyntomodulin, and GLP-2 had no effect. In isolated rings of arteries, GLP-1 (10(-8) to 10(-5) M) induced a dose-dependent and time-reversible relaxation of preconstricted arteries. In a preparation with denuded epithelium, GLP-1 lost its effect. In conclusion, GLP-1 might represent another neuropeptide that acts as neurotransmitter of the peptidergic, nonadrenergic-noncholinergic nervous system that innervates the airways.