1. Perfusion of the human jejunum with low concentrations of glycine-conjugated bile acids in physiological solutions induced net fluid flow that varied between absorption and secretion, with only slight variation of the luminal osmotic and ionic milieu.
2. Transmucosal net flux rates for water and the principal ions were calculated. Regression analysis of the flux data was consistent with the concept of a ‘net transported fluid’ which was iso-osmotic with respect to the lumen, with a superimposed fixed net anion exchange unaffected by the rate or direction of bulk flow.
3. Recalculation of earlier data from comparable studies of the human colon showed similar relationships consistent with varying iso-osmotic bulk flow and fixed ion exchange, the latter differing from that found in the proximal bowel.
4. Studies were performed also in the human ileum. Variable iso-osmotic bulk flow was again encountered, but ion exchange was of a lower magnitude than in the jejunum or colon. Qualitatively, ion exchange in the ileum was intermediate between the jejunum and colon.
5. These analyses suggest that transmucosal bulk flow and ion exchange may be quantitatively and spatially independent processes. They provide support for the hypothesis that bulk flow may be intercellular (and hence extracellular), while ion exchange may take place across the luminal face of the mucosal cell.
6. Secretory agents, such as the dihydroxy bile acids, provide a useful means of analysing solute-solvent flow relationships in greatly differing bulk flow conditions with relatively stable physicochemical parameters.