1. The urea content of ileostomy effluent has been measured by the urease method as an indirect estimate of the urea concentration in the lumen of the normal ileum.
2. The plasma disappearance of intravenously administered [14C]urea was used to study intestinal urea breakdown. Normal subjects on high and low protein diets and patients with either excised (i.e. with ileostomies) or excluded colons were studied.
3. The 24 h intestinal urea breakdown was considerably greater than the quantity of urea estimated to be entering the colon from the ileum and across the colonic mucosa.
4. Intestinal urea breakdown increased with increase in dietary protein and decreased with, but was not abolished by, exclusion or excision of the colon.
5. Our results suggest that the colonic lumen is not the only site of intestinal ureolysis and that significant quantities of urea must be broken down either at a juxtamucosal site or in the ileum.