By convention, establishing a physiologic role for a gut peptide requires demonstration of biologic activity that can be reproduced by exogenous administration of the peptide in amounts that yield plasma concentrations that are not higher than those found after a meal. We have tested the hypothesis that the combined action of two inhibitory peptides may lower the effective doses of each. We further hypothesize that combined peptide responses may be responsible for the action of peptide hormones that have been difficult to demonstrate as physiologically relevant mediators, when examined as independently acting substances. In conscious dogs prepared with chronic pancreatic cannulas, stimulated pancreatic exocrine secretions were depressed in a dose-related manner by intravenous infusions of calcitonin (CT) and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). Doses of 2.0 nmol/kg/hr of both CT and CGRP yielded maximal inhibition of stimulated secretions of both bicarbonate (greater than 85% inhibition) and protein (greater than 55% inhibition). The lowest effective dose for either CT or CGRP, given alone, was 0.75 nmol/kg/hr, but when infused simultaneously, each at the subthreshold dose of 0.50 nmol/kg/hr, significant inhibition of protein and bicarbonate secretion was achieved. Combined infusions of the submaximal dose of 0.75 nmol/kg/hr resulted in an enhanced inhibitory response. To prove that this effect is not simply combined activation of a common receptor, we tested peptide YY (0.1 to 0.5 nmol/kg/hr) combined with CGRP and obtained similar results. Because a meal simultaneously releases a large number of active peptides, we speculate that such potentiated responses do occur physiologically. Cooperative interaction with other agents may be the primary mode of action for certain gut peptides.