Background: The 5-HT1 agonist sumatriptan, used in the treatment of migraine, can cause chest pain. Aim: To investigate the effect of a therapeutic dose of sumatriptan (6 mg s.c.) on oesophageal motility. Methods: In 16 normal healthy subjects aged 19-32 years (9 males), the manometric response of the lower oesophageal sphincter (sleeve sensor), oesophageal body (four sites), stomach and pharynx (to register swallows) to 5 mL water swallows was assessed before and after a subcutaneous injection of either sumatriptan (6 mg) or saline control. Symptoms and ECGs were also monitored. Results: Sumatriptan 6 mg s.c. altered oesophageal motility in all subjects. This was reflected by a significant increase in the amplitude of oesophageal body contractions (change from pre- to 1 h post-injection: sumatriptan 9.9 (2.8, 17.1) mmHg vs. placebo -0.8 (-4.3, 2.6) mmHg, difference 10.8 (4.4, 17.1) mmHg; P = 0.003) and a transient increase in lower oesophageal sphincter pressure (change from pre- to 5 min post-injection: sumatriptan 10.9 (5.2, 16.6) mmHg vs. placebo 5.1 (1.8, 8.4) mmHg, difference 5.8 (-0.7, 12.3) mmHg; P = 0.08). Sumatriptan had no effect on the velocity of propagation of oesophageal contractions (change from pre- to 1 h post-injection: sumatriptan -0.1 (-0.3, 0.1) cm/s vs. placebo -0.1 (-0.3, 0.0) cm/s, difference 0.1 (-0.1, 0.2) cm/s; P = 0.40). One subject experienced chest symptoms following sumatriptan and, although motility was altered, this did not reach pathological levels. No ECG abnormalities were observed. Conclusion: Sumatriptan (6 mg s.c.) significantly alters oesophageal motor function without affecting the ECG. It is therefore possible that sumatriptan-induced chest symptoms may have an oesophageal origin. The evaluation of similar therapeutic agents for migraine on oesophageal function may be justified.