In this study the muscarinic receptor antagonist atropine and the cholecystokinin (CCK)-A receptor antagonist loxiglumide were used to investigate the relative importance of cholinergic and CCK-mediated regulation of intestinal phase antro-pyloro-duodenal motility. Plasma levels of gastrointestinal hormones [pancreatic polypeptide (PP), gastrin, CCK] were concomitantly determined to estimate biological potency of the doses of the receptor antagonists. In eight healthy male volunteers, a 30-min basal interdigestive period was followed by duodenal perfusion of a mixed liquid meal for 150 min at 1.6 kcal min-1 against a background of saline or atropine (5 micrograms kg-1 h-1) or loxiglumide (10 mg kg-1 h-1). Antropyloro-duodenal motility was continuously monitored with a sleeve straddling the pylorus. Against a background of saline, duodenal nutrients persistently stimulated isolated pyloric pressure waves. After 60 min, the initially low antral and duodenal contraction rates increased. In the fed state, atropine reduced total number of antral contractions and integrated motility index by 73% (P < 0.01) and 76% (P < 0.005), total number of pyloric contractions and integrated motility index by 43% and 50% (P < 0.05) with inhibition increasing over time. It did not alter duodenal contraction frequency but diminished duodenal motility index by 39% (P < 0.05) owing to a reduction in amplitude and duration of contractions. Loxiglumide decreased total numbers of antral, pyloric and duodenal contractions by 44% (P < 0.05), 74% (P < 0.005) and 41% (P < 0.005) respectively. It reduced cumulative antral, pyloric and duodenal motility indexes by 60% (P < 0.01), 80% (P < 0.01) and 61% (P < 0.05) respectively. Atropine fully abolished PP release to duodenal nutrients whereas loxiglumide reduced it by 60% (P < 0.05). Both atropine and loxiglumide enhanced gastrin release whereas only loxiglumide markedly stimulated CCK release. We conclude that both cholinergic input and endogenous CCK are major stimulatory regulators of antro-pyloroduodenal motility in the intestinal phase. There appears to be a regional heterogeneity of cholinergic and CCK control. Cholinergic input predominates in the antrum. Both systems are equipotent at the pylorus. CCK predominates in the duodenum. We suggest that CCK primarily interacts with receptors on cholinergic neurons in the antropyloric region and primarily affects smooth muscle receptors in the duodenum.