1. The effects in rats of an oral pharmacological dose of prednisolone on mucosal function, enzymology, lysosomal membrane fragility, morphology and cell kinetics have been examined in proximal jejunum and distal ileum.
2. The maximum absorptive capacity for galactose was significantly greater in both the jejunum and the ileum of the steroid-treated animals. This was due to an increase in carrier-mediated transport in the individual enterocytes and not to a change in the cell population. The Michaelis constant for galactose was not significantly altered by prednisolone.
3. Activities of brush-border and mitochondrial enzymes and of RNA were increased in isolated enterocyte preparations from the jejunum and ileum of the steroid-treated group.
4. Lysosomal membrane fragility was unaltered in the prednisolone-treated group.
5. Morphometrical observations confirmed that the size of the enterocyte population was unaltered by prednisolone. Studies on cell kinetics indicate that the effects of prednisolone are due to a direct action on the enterocyte and not secondary to changes in migration rate.