Using the sucrose-gap technique, we attempted to assess a role for tachykinins (TKs) in mediating noncholinergic excitatory junction potential (EJP) and contraction, in the circular muscle of rat proximal colon. Excitatory responses were evoked by submaximal electrical field stimulation (EFS) in the presence of atropine (1 microM), guanethidine (1 microM), indomethacin (10 microM), and N(omega)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME) (100 microM). The NK1 receptor antagonist, SR 140,333 (up to 3 microM) or the NK2 receptor antagonists, SR 48,968 and MEN 10,627 (up to 5 microM) produced a partial inhibition of the excitatory responses to EFS. The co-administration of the selective NK1 and NK2 receptor antagonists produced additive effects on the responses to EFS. Selective NK1 receptor agonist, [Sar9, Met (O2)11]-substance P, induced depolarization and contraction, antagonized by SR 140,333, but not by NK2 receptor antagonists. NK2 receptor agonist, [betaAla8]-neurokinin A (4-10), also produced electrical and mechanical excitatory effects that were antagonized by SR 48,968 or MEN 10,627, but not by the NK1 receptor antagonist. Our results provide evidence that, in circular muscle of rat colon, endogenous tachykinins are the main excitatory transmitters for nonadrenergic, noncholinergic (NANC) excitation and their action is mediated by both NK1 and NK2 receptors.