The purpose of this work was to investigate whether a probiotic bacterium, Lactobacillus plantarum 299v, could affect Escherichia coli-induced passage of mannitol across the intestinal wall. Sprague-Dawley rats were pretreated for one week by either tube feeding with L. plantarum 299v twice daily, free access to L. plantarum 299v by adding the bacterium in the drinking water, or negative control receiving regular feeding. Intestinal segments were mounted in Ussing chambers and the mucosa was exposed to control medium, E. coli, and L. plantarum 299v (alone or together). [14C]Mannitol was added as a marker of intestinal permeability and samples were taken from the serosal side. E. coli exposure induced a 53% increase in mannitol passage across the intestinal wall (P < 0.05). One week of pretreatment with L. plantarum 299v in the drinking water abolished the E. coli-induced increase in permeability. Tube feeding for one week or short-term addition of L. plantarum 299v in the Ussing chambers had no effect on the permeability provoked by E. coli challenge. Notably, L. plantanum 299v itself did not change the intestinal passage of mannitol. These data demonstrate that pretreatment with L. plantarum 299v, which is a probiotic bacterium, protects against E. coli-induced increase in intestinal permeability, and that L. plantarum 299v alone has no influence on the intestinal permeability. Thus, this study supports the concept that probiotics may exert beneficial effects in the gastrointestinal tract.