Regulatory neuropeptides are widely distributed in the gastrointestinal tract, where they play an important role in motility, secretion, and immune and inflammatory responses. In this study, the rectal mucosal content of somatostatin (SOM), substance P (SP), beta-endorphin (BE), and thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) was measured by radioimmunoassay in 56 patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), 15 patients with Crohn's disease (CD), 15 patients with acute infectious colitis (AIC), and 11 controls, who showed no inflammation of the rectal mucosa, nor abnormal bowel movements. The content of immunoreactive (ir)-SOM was decreased in UC patients, especially in those with persistent disease activity, while the levels of ir-SP, BE, and TRH were increased in such patients. Some changes of ir-peptide levels were also observed in CD and AIC patients. The changes in neuropeptide levels were analyzed in relation to histological grades of inflammation in UC patients, grades 4-5 showing the most significant changes. The levels of ir-SOM, SP, BE, and TRH showed no significant change in chronic persistent UC when measured 6-12 months after the initial examination. In contrast, in patients with remitting intermittent UC, the levels of SP and BE decreased during remission. Abnormal intestinal neuropeptide content may be implicated in the continued mucosal immune and inflammatory responses that are manifested in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.