The aim of this study was to determine the effects of nimesulide and pentoxifylline on the contractile effects of KCl, carbachol and substance P in the longitudinal muscle of rat ileum during peritonitis. Peritonitis was induced in rat ileum by cecal ligation and puncture. Thirty rats were operated on to induce peritonitis, 10 of which received nimesulide (5 mg/kg, subcutaneously) and 10 of which received pentoxifylline (25 mg/kg, subcutaneously) before the operation; 10 other rats underwent a sham operation and acted as controls. Twenty-four hours after the operation, ileum segments were transferred to isolated organ baths and responses to KCl, carbachol and substance P were recorded. E-max values of KCl, carbachol and substance P were markedly lower (P < 0.05), with no change in the pD(2) values, in the peritonitis group than in the controls. Peritonitis-induced changes in the KCl, carbachol and substance P responses of ileum were significantly restored by nimesulide (P<0.05), but not by pentoxifylline. The improved contractile responses following nimesulide treatment indicate that products of cyclooxygenase-II may be, at least in part, responsible for the decreased contractile responses to KCl, carbachol and substance P in peritonitis. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V All rights reserved.