Initiation of intestinal Na(+)-glucose cotransport results in transient cell swelling and sustained increases in tight junction permeability. Since Na(+)/H(+) exchange has been implicated in volume regulation after physiological cell swelling, we hypothesized that Na(+)/H(+) exchange might also be required for Na(+)-glucose cotransport-dependent tight junction regulation. In Caco-2 monolayers with active Na(+)-glucose cotransport, inhibition of Na(+)/H(+) exchange with 200 microM 5-(N,N-dimethyl)- amiloride induced 36 +/- 2% increases in transepithelial resistance (TER). Evaluation using multiple Na(+)/H(+) exchange inhibitors showed that inhibition of the Na(+)/H(+) exchanger 3 (NHE3) isoform was most closely related to TER increases. TER increases due to NHE3 inhibition were related to cytoplasmic acidification because cytoplasmic alkalinization with 5 mM NH(4)Cl prevented both cytoplasmic acidification and TER increases. However, NHE3 inhibition did not affect TER when Na(+)-glucose cotransport was inhibited. Myosin II regulatory light chain (MLC) phosphorylation decreased up to 43 +/- 5% after inhibition of Na(+)/H(+) exchange, similar to previous studies that associate decreased MLC phosphorylation with increased TER after inhibition of Na(+)-glucose cotransport. However, NHE3 inhibitors did not diminish Na(+)-glucose cotransport. These data demonstrate that inhibition of NHE3 results in decreased MLC phosphorylation and increased TER and suggest that NHE3 may participate in the signaling pathway of Na(+)-glucose cotransport-dependent tight junction regulation.