Experiments were performed in the longitudinal muscle strip of the guinea pig ileum to characterize the receptors involved in the contractile response of this preparation to neurokinins. Antagonists for the NK-1 (CP 96345, CP 99994) and NK-2 (SR 48968) receptors, atropine for NK-3 receptors, as well as diphenhydramine (histamine H1 receptor antagonist) and indometacin (cyclooxygenase inhibitor) were used to determine the relative contribution of neurokinin receptors and some endogenous agents to the myotropic effects of substance P (SP) and neurokinin receptor selective agonists. The present findings indicate that the three neurokinin receptor types take part in the contractile activities of SP-related peptides. NK-1 receptors, probably localized in the smooth muscle, are inhibited only by the two CP compounds and not by atropine or the other agents. NK-2 receptors contribute to the contraction by 5-10% and are blocked by SR 48968. NK-3 receptors act indirectly through the release of acetylcholine from the myenteric plexus, since activities of [MePhe7]NKB and senktide are blocked by atropine. Septide behaves as a selective NK-1 receptor agonist and does not show any difference with SP, except for higher sensitivity to CP antagonists. The same is observed with Ac[Arg6,Sar9,Met(O2)11]SP(6-11), another NK-1-selective fragment. Discrepancies between antagonist pA2 values obtained against undeca- and hexapeptide agonists are interpreted as due to a stronger binding affinity of undecapeptide agonists as compared with the hexapeptides. Results of binding assays confirm data from the literature by showing that undecapeptide agonists have higher affinities than hexapeptides, particularly septide,, and such discrepancies (with the biological assays) can also be explained by the reduction or absence of the cationic charge at the N terminal of septide.