Several investigations showed a positive influence of orally administered gelatin on degenerative diseases of the musculo-skeletal system. Both the therapeutic mechanism and the absorption dynamics, however, remain unclear. Therefore, this study investigated the time course of gelatin hydrolysate absorption and its subsequent distribution in various tissues in mice (C57/BL). Absorption of (14)C labeled gelatin hydrolysate was compared to control mice administered (14)C labeled proline following intragastric application. Plasma and tissue radioactivity was measured over 192 h. Additional "gut sac" experiments were conducted to quantify the MW distribution of the absorbed gelatin using SDS-electrophoresis and HPLC. Ninety-five percent of enterally applied gelatin hydrolysate was absorbed within the first 12 h. The distribution of the labeled gelatin in the various tissues was similar to that of labeled proline with the exception of cartilage, where a pronounced and long-lasting accumulation of gelatin hydrolysate was observed. In cartilage, measured radioactivity was more than twice as high following gelatin administration compared to the control group. The absorption of gelatin hydrolysate in its high molecular form, with peptides of 2.5-15kD, was detected following intestinal passage. These results demonstrate intestinal absorption and cartilage tissue accumulation of gelatin hydrolysate and suggest a potential mechanism for previously observed clinical benefits of orally administered gelatin.