The kinetics of four 11C-labelled enkephalin peptides: Tyr-Gly-Gly-Phe-Met (Met-enkephalin), Tyr-D-Met-Gly-Phe-Pro-NH2 [D-Met2,Pro5)-enkephalinamide), Tyr-D-Ala-Gly-Phe-Met-NH2 (DALA) and Tyr-D-Ala-D-Ala-Phe-Met-NH2 (TAAFM) all labelled at the methyl group of methionine was studied in the Rhesus monkey. After intravenous administration, the regional kinetics in the head, lungs, liver and kidneys were followed by means of positron emission tomography (PET). The total radioactivity in blood and urine was measured and the composition of 11C-labelled peptide fragments in plasma in vivo and in vitro was analysed by liquid chromatography. With PET, an increased radioactivity was observed in the brain and pituitary over the 60-90 min investigation period after i.v. injection of the peptides. The highest radioactivities were noted for Met-enkephalin, followed by DALA and D-Met2, Pro5-enkephalinamide, while very low radioactivities were found for TAAFM. The uptake of Met-enkephalin- and DALA-derived radioactivity was of the same order as has previously been shown for morphine in the brain and considerably higher than that of D-Met2,Pro5-enkephalinamide and TAAFM, respectively. A large fraction of the brain radioactivity derived from Met-enkephalin and DALA probably emanated from [11C]methionine as indicated by plasma and urine analysis. Met-Enkephalin was rapidly eliminated from plasma in vitro with an half-life of less than two minutes, whereas DALA was stable suggesting clearance by other tissues than plasma. In conclusion, both Met-enkephalin and DALA, were rapidly hydrolyzed in vivo to [11C]methionine. [11C]Methionine was probably taken up in the brain, as the radioactivity increased with time in different brain regions as measured with PET.D-Met2,Pro5-Enkephalinamide and TAAFM were virtually stable in vivo and at least part of the radioactivity observed in the brain may have represented the intact peptide.