The purpose of present study was to determine whether peptidase activity affects the release of substance P (SP) and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) from spinal cord slices. When slices were exposed to various inhibitors of endopeptidase 24.11, the resting and capsaicin-stimulated release of SP were less than 0.04% and 0.20% total content per minute, respectively. Resting CGRP release was approximately 0.10% and stimulated release was 0.40%. The combination of 20 microM bacitracin, 100 microM phenylalanylalanine (Phe-Ala), and 50 microM p-chloromercuriphenylsulfonic acid (PCMS) significantly increased both resting and stimulated release of SP and CGRP at least two- or threefold. Doubling the concentration of PCMS and Phe-Ala did not further improve peptide release. These results demonstrate that recovery of peptides released from spinal cord slices is dependent in part on activity of multiple peptidases in the tissues.