1. Graft-versus-host reaction (GvHR) was induced in neonatal mice to produce crypt hyperplasia with and without stunted villi. Lactase activity was measured along individual villi of control and GvHR mice using quantitative cytochemistry.
2. Lactase activity increased in control mice as enterocytes migrated over the lower part of the villus. This increase was followed by a period when lactase activity remained approximately constant.
3. Effects produced by GvHR on this normal profile of development included an extension of the distance on the villus over which enterocytes could continue to increase lactase activity, a reduction in the time needed for an enterocyte to express lactase activity at maximal rate, and an overall decrease in the maximal lactase activity expressed by mature enterocytes.
4. These effects have been quantified by fitting logistic curves to the experimental data.
5. Parallel biochemical analyses of intestinal homogenates showed sucrase, isomaltase, trehalase and maltase activities to increase markedly 7–8 days after the injection of parental spleen cells.
6. Attention is drawn to similarities between these results and steroid induced precocious development of intestinal function in neonatal mice.