The preprotachykinin-A gene-derived peptides substance (substance P; SP) and neurokinin (NK) A are expressed in intrinsic enteric neurons, which supply all layers of the gut, and extrinsic primary afferent nerve fibers, which innervate primarily the arterial vascular system. The actions of tachykinins on the digestive effector systems are mediated by three different types of tachykinin receptor, termed NK1, NK2 and NK3 receptors. Within the enteric nervous system, SP and NKA are likely to mediate, or comediate, slow synaptic transmission and to modulate neuronal excitability via stimulation of NK3 and NK1 receptors. In the intestinal mucosa, tachykinins cause net secretion of fluid and electrolytes, and it appears as if SP and NKA play a messenger role in intramural secretory reflex pathways. Secretory processes in the salivary glands and pancreas are likewise influenced by tachykinins. The gastrointestinal arterial system may be dilated or constricted by tachykinins, whereas constriction and an increase in the vascular permeability are the only effects seen in the venous system. Various gastrointestinal disorders are associated with distinct changes in the tachykinin system, and there is increasing evidence that tachykinins participate in the hypersecretory, vascular and immunological disturbances associated with infection and inflammatory bowel disease. In a therapeutic perspective, it would seem conceivable that tachykinin antagonists could be exploited as antidiarrheal, antiinflammatory and antinociceptive drugs.