The new beta3-adrenoceptor is present in the gastrointestinal tract of various species. This study aimed to show that this receptor modulates human colonic motility in vitro. We used circular muscle strips from the human colon suspended in single organ baths containing Krebs solution and subjected to an initial 1.5-2 g tension. We measured the effects of different beta3-adrenoceptor agonists, including SR 59104A (N-[(6-hydroxy-1,2,3,4-tetrahydronaphthalen-(2R)-2-yl)methyl]-(2 R)-2-hydroxy-2-(3-chlorophenyl)ethanamine hydrochloride), SR 59119A (N-[(7-methoxy-1,2,3,4-tetrahydronaphthalen-(2R)-2-yl)methyl]-(2R) -2-hydroxy-2-(3-chlorophenyl)ethanamine hydrochloride), BRL 37344 (R,R + S,S) [4-[2-[[2-(3-chlorophenyl)-2-hydroxyethyl]-amino] propyl] phenoxy] acetic acid), and of isoprenaline and salbutamol in the absence or in the presence of propranolol alone or in combination with the beta3-adrenoceptor antagonist SR 59230A (3-(2-ethylphenoxy)-1-[(1S)-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-naphthalen-1- ylamino]-(2S)-2-propanol oxalate) on amplitude of spontaneous contractions. To evaluate a possible beta2-adrenoceptor-mediated effect, we studied the action of these compounds on human isolated bronchi. On the human isolated colon, SR 59119A, SR 59104A and isoprenaline reduced the initial amplitude of spontaneous contractions by 60%. The curves obtained in the presence of antagonists suggested an action mediated by beta3-adrenoceptor stimulation, since propranolol did not antagonize the action of SR 59119A and SR 59104A, whereas the combination of propranolol and SR 59230A significantly displaced the concentration-response curve of these agonists to the right. This study provides pharmacological evidence of modulation of human colonic motility, and especially of the amplitude of spontaneous contractions, by the atypical beta-adrenoceptor, the beta3-adrenoceptor.