The aim of this study was to compare the effect of two known spasmogens, oxytocin and the stable thromboxane receptor mimetic, U46619, on human myometrium treated with the prostaglandin E receptor (EP2) agonist, butaprost (selective for the EP2 receptor). Strips of myometrium from pregnant and non-pregnant donors were set up in a superfusion apparatus. Butaprost was administered as a bolus dose and via infusion. During the infusion of 10(-6) M butaprost, spasmogens were administered as bolus doses. Butaprost caused dose-related inhibition of myometrial activity when administered as a bolus dose (3-100 nmol) and concentration-dependent inhibition during infusion studies (10(-8)-10(-5 )M). Butaprost (10(-6 )M) attenuated the response to U46619 (0.l-10 nmol) in pregnant myometrium, but this difference was not statistically significant. Responses of pregnant myometrium to oxytocin (0.01-0.1 nmol) were significantly attenuated (P<0.05) in the presence of butaprost (10(-6)M). Butaprost physiologically antagonised the oxytocin response, possibly by increasing intracellular cAMP levels. This antagonism was much more marked than that seen with butaprost and U46619. It is unclear why these two types of antagonism differ and this effect is currently being investigated further using other prostanoid and non-prostanoid agents.