Tachykinin receptors in the dog bladder were characterized using radioligand binding, functional and autoradiographic techniques. In detrusor muscle homogenates, specific binding of [125l]iodohistidyl neurokinin A (INKA) and [125l]Bolton Hunter eledoisin was reversible, saturable and, to a single class of sites of Kd, 3,6 and 27 nM, respectively. No specific binding of [125l]Bolton Hunter[Sar9, Met (O2)11] substance P occurred. INKA binding was reduced by the peptidase inhibitor bacitracin. The rank potency order of agonists competing for binding of both radioligands indicated interaction at NK-2 sites. NK-2-selective antagonists also competed for INKA binding, with SR 48968, GR 94800, MDL 29913 and the selective agonist [Lys5, MeLeu9, Nle10]-NKA(4-10) showing biphasic binding profiles. Autoradiographic studies revealed specific binding of INKA and [125l]Bolton Hunter eledoisin over detrusor muscle and small arteries. [125l]Bolton Hunter [Sar9, Met (O2)11] SP labeled the intima of arteries and arterioles, but not the detrusor muscle. Tachykinins contracted detrusor muscle strips, with potency order at the carbachol EC15 NKA = kassinin > [Lys5, MeLeu9, Nle10]-NKA(4-10) = neuropeptide gamma = neuropeptide K = NKB > > MDL 28564, with [Sar9, Met(O2)11]-SP ineffective. Shallow concentration-response curves, variable efficacies and inhibition by atropine and mepyramine suggest that other mechanisms may influence contractile responses. Responses to [Lys5, MeLeu9, Nle10]-NKA(4-10) were inhibited competitively by MDL 29913 and MEN 10207 (pA2 values: 6.4 and 5.3, respectively). Antagonism by SR 48968 and GR 94800 was noncompetitive (both pK8 values 8.9). In summary, NK-2-preferring ligands showed superior potency as both binding competitors and contractile agonists, demonstrating that NK-2 receptors mediate detrusor muscle contraction, similar to the human detrusor. Tachykinins may play important roles in the micturition reflex and in regulating detrusor muscle blood flow in the dog.