In the present study we examined the effect of carboxyl-terminal modifications of des-Met14-bombesin (Bn) on Bn receptor affinity in murine 3T3 cells, rat and guinea pig pancreatic acini, and the ability to initiate biologic responses by synthesizing 18 des-Met14-Bn(6-13) analogues. With guinea pig acini and 3T3 cells, affinity was affected by the chain length of the alkyl moiety (R) added to [D-Phe6]Bn(6-13)NH2R with relative potencies: propyl greater than ethyl greater than butyl = hexyl greater than heptyl greater than free amide, whereas in rat acini affinity was not increased by the chain length. In each cell system the affinity of the alkylamide was not increased by insertion of a phenyl group in the alkyl side chain, by making the analogue more neuromedin B-like or by addition of a reduced peptide bond. The affinity in each cell system was increased by additions of other electron releasing groups to the COOH-terminal carboxyl group such as [D-Phe6]Bn(6-13)ethyl or methyl ester, or hydrazide. In guinea pig pancreas and 3T3 cells, 12 analogues were antagonists, 1 a full and 5 partial agonists. In rat pancreas, 8 were antagonists, 5 full agonists, and 5 partial agonists. Potent antagonists in each cell system were the methyl and ethyl ester, hydrazide, and ethylamide analogues. In 3T3 cells or guinea pig pancreas, agonist activity of the alkylamide was critically dependent on the chain length, whereas with rat pancreatic Bn receptors any alkylamide longer than the ethylamide had agonist activity. In all three cell systems any alteration that made the alkylamide more neuromedin B-like caused agonist activity. These results demonstrate that the nature of the substitution on the carboxyl terminus of des-Met14-Bn analogues is critically important, not only for determining Bn receptor affinity, but also for determining the ability to initiate a biologic response. In contrast to previous studies, the present results demonstrate that the presence of the COOH-terminal amino acid in position 14 of Bn is not essential for initiating a biologic response. Several des-Met14-Bn analogues were potent partial agonists, whereas others such as the hydrazide or ethyl ester are very potent antagonists.