1. The validity of evidence for intact peptide absorption, derived from analysis of the relation of water and total solute absorption, has been tested.
2. Solute and water absorption from saline solutions of the disaccharide maltose have been studied in the normal human jejunum, using a double-lumen perfusion technique with a proximal occlusive balloon. It was expected that maltose would yield very different results from peptides, because maltose is virtually completely hydrolysed before absorption, whereas a proportion at least of some peptides is transported into the intestinal mucosal cells before hydrolysis. This expectation was not confirmed by experiment.
3. The assumption that the absorbate is always isotonic with plasma has been tested by altering the osmolality of glucose/saline solutions perfused in the jejunal lumen. This assumption was not substantiated by experiment, as when the luminal fluid was hypertonic to plasma, so was the absorbate.
4. It is suggested that our findings with peptides and saccharides could be explained by the production of a hypertonic absorbate by hydrolysis of these solutes to their monomer units. We therefore conclude that analyses of the relation of net solute and water absorption cannot be used to predict the form in which peptides enter the mucosal cells.