The effects of cholecystokinin-octapeptide (CCK-OP) and pentagastrin on electrical and motor activities of circular muscle of the canine colon were studied with the sucrose gap technique. Additional organ bath experiments were performed to further characterize the motor response to the peptides and to elucidate their site of action. The electrical activity consisted of slow waves having an initial potential followed by a plateau potential, at a regular frequency of 4.5 cycles/min. Both peptides prolonged the duration and increased the amplitude of the plateau phase of the slow waves. Concomitantly, the slow wave frequency was reduced. In addition, CCK-OP increased spiking activity. Both spiking activity and the prolonged plateau potential generated contractile activity, prolonged phasic contraction occurring with slow waves with a prolonged plateau. In organ bath experiments, both CCK-OP and pentagastrin increased the basal tone of the muscle strips and prolonged the duration of the phasic contractions. The prolongation of the duration of the contractions was not antagonized by tetrodotoxin (TTX) and atropine. CCK-OP but not pentagastrin increased the force of contractions, this action was not affected by atropine but was reduced in the presence of TTX, suggesting that the increase in force may be partially mediated by noncholinergic excitatory nerves. The increase in basal tension by the peptides was enhanced in the presence of TTX indicating that myenteric inhibitory neurones were tonically active under our experimental conditions. The results provide the electrophysiological basis for CCK-OP and pentagastrin induced changes in colonic motility.