Neurochemical and functional studies were performed to investigate the role of substance P (SP) during trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid (TNB)-induced colitis. Time course studies showed that tissutal SP-like immunoreactivity levels decreased in acute or chronic phases of the experimental colitis. The affinity of SP was not significantly reduced up to 1 week after TNB-induced colitis but a decreased density of SP binding sites was observed at all times. The subcutaneous administration of neurokinin (NK)1 receptor antagonist RP 67580 (0.1-1 mumol/kg daily x 1 week) did not affect the injury induced by the hapten. These findings suggest that changes in SP seem to be the effect rather than the cause of colitis and differ from those observed in human inflammatory bowel diseases.