The objective of this work was to study the role of regional intestinal efflux activity of P-glycoprotein (Pgp) in situ in anesthetized rats in limiting the absorption of digoxin. A 10-cm portion of duodenum or jejunum, or 5-cm of colon was perfused single-pass with saline containing [(3)H]digoxin while the appearance of radioactivity in the blood was measured. Verapamil in the perfusate was used as a modulator of Pgp in the intestinal mucosa. Net water absorption, mucosal integrity, and intestinal motility of the isolated segment were monitored, as well as heart rate and blood pressure. Excretion of i.v. administered unlabelled digoxin, 1 mg/kg, into the intestine while perfusing the duodenum-proximal jejunum region, was studied for comparison. At a perfusate concentration of 1 mM, verapamil caused a dramatic increase in [(3)H]digoxin absorption rate from duodenum and jejunum, while the effect in colon was insignificant. At concentrations of 0.1, 1, and 2.5 mM in the duodenal perfusate, verapamil increased the absorption rate of [(3)H]digoxin in a dose-dependent manner. The lowest concentration almost doubled the rate without having any significant effects on the cardiovascular system, intestinal motility, or net absorption of water. The excretion rate of unlabelled digoxin from the blood into the gut lumen was found to be halved in the presence of 0.5 mM verapamil in the perfusate. Absorption rate of [(3)H]digoxin in the rat is likely limited by Pgp-mediated efflux. The data indicate that Pgp plays an important role for digoxin efflux in the small intestine only.