The preprotachykinin-A gene-derived peptides substance P and neurokinin (NK) A are expressed in distinct neural pathways of the mammalian gut. When released from intrinsic enteric or extrinsic primary afferent neurons, tachykinins have the potential to influence both nerve and muscle by way of interaction with three different types of tachykinin receptor, termed NK1, NK2 and NK3 receptors. Most prominent among the effects of tachykinins is their excitatory action on gastrointestinal motor activity, which is seen in virtually all regions and layers of the mammalian gut. This action depends not only on a direct activation of the muscle through NK1 and/or NK2 receptors, but also on stimulation of excitatory enteric motor pathways through NK3 and/or NK1 receptors. In addition, tachykinins can inhibit motor activity by stimulating either inhibitory neuronal pathways or interrupting excitatory relays. A synopsis of the available data indicates that endogenous substance P and NKA interact with other enteric transmitters in the physiological control of gastrointestinal motor activity. Derangement of the regulatory roles of tachykinins may be a factor in the gastrointestinal dysmotility associated with infection, inflammation, stress and pain. In a therapeutic perspective, it would seem conceivable, therefore, that tachykinin agonists and antagonists are adjuncts to the treatment of motor disorders that involve pathological disturbances of the gastrointestinal tachykinin system.