The pharmacological properties of the cyclic peptide Phe-cyclo[Lys-Tyr(3-tBu)-beta Ala-].trifluoroacetate (GM-109), a selective motilin antagonist, were investigated in the smooth muscle of the rabbit small intestine. GM-109 (0.1-3 microM) competitively inhibited contractions induced by porcine motilin (pMTL) in rabbit isolated duodenum longitudinal strips, with a pA2 value of 7.37 +/- 0.24. However, the contractile response to acetylcholine, to substance P, to prostaglandin F2 alpha and to KCl was unaffected by 10 microM GM-109 in the same preparation. Both GM-109 and pMTL competitively inhibited 125I-pMTL binding to motilin receptors in a homogenate of the rabbit small intestinal smooth muscle tissue. The pKi value of GM-109 and the pKd value of unlabeled pMTL were 7.99 +/- 0.04 and 9.25 +/- 0.06 (each n = 5), respectively. These results indicate that GM-109 is a selective and competitive motilin receptor antagonist in the smooth muscle of the rabbit small intestine. Thus this compound may be a useful pharmacological tool for examining the functional role(s) of motilin.