This study presents a histological examination of dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced colitis in germ-free (GF) mice. A comparison of the pathology between GF and conventionalized mice (CVz) was made to determine the role that intestinal microflora play in DSS-induced colitis. To induce colitis, GF and CVz IQI/Jic mice were given either 5% or 1% DSS orally. Administration of 5% DSS, a common concentration used to induce colitis in mice, caused gross rectal bleeding and a marked decrease in hematocrit as early as day one in GF mice. These mice died on day three due to massive bleeding into the intestinal lumen. In contrast, CVz mice did not die during the seven-day experimental period. Histopathological examination three days after administration of 5% DSS did not reveal any colitis lesions in GF mice, but CVz mice had developed moderate colitis in the large intestine. Administration of a low concentration of DSS (1%), which only induces mild basal crypt loss in CVz mice, caused severe colitis in the distal colon in GF mice, and they died on day 14. These data suggest that intestinal microflora are not necessary for the induction of colitis. Furthermore, DSS may be highly toxic to GF mice, and when given at a concentration of 5% it causes massive bleeding into the intestinal lumen resulting in death prior to development of colitis.