The 29-amino acid neuropeptide galanin occurs in intrapancreatic nerves and inhibits insulin secretion. To study the structure-activity relations of galanin, we examined the effects of pig and rat galanin, three galanin fragments (galanin-(1-11), galanin-(1-16) and rat galanin-(17-29) and four galanin analogues ([Ala2]pig galanin, [Ala2]rat galanin, [D-Trp2]rat galanin and [D-Trp2]galanin-(1-16] on glucose-stimulated insulin secretion from isolated rat islets. Pig and rat galanin and galanin-(1-11) equipotently inhibited glucose-stimulated (8.3 mM) insulin secretion at and above 10(-7) M (P less than 0.05), whereas galanin-(1-16), inhibited insulin secretion at 10(-6) M (P less than 0.01). In contrast, the C-terminal rat galanin-(17-29) and the galanin analogues did not influence insulin secretion. Thus, rat and pig galanin are equipotent in inhibiting glucose-stimulated insulin secretion from rat islets. The active site resides in the N-terminal part of the molecule. Furthermore, the binding of galanin to its receptor depends on structural characteristics governed by the N-terminal position and in particular by the Trp2 residue.