The therapeutic effects of exogenous phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylinositol on acetic acid-induced colitis in rats were evaluated. A uniform colitis developed 4 days after instillation of 4% acetic acid for 15 s in an excluded colonic segment, also resulting in a 6-fold increase in mucosal permeability. Instillation of 12.5 mg phosphatidylcholine once daily from the day after acetic acid instillation and for the following 2 days prevented partially the development of colitis causing partial mucosal restoration. By increasing the phosphatidylcholine dose to 25 and 50 mg, a better preventive effect was achieved. By starting the phosphatidylcholine instillation immediately after the acetic acid exposure, almost complete prevention of the colitis could be obtained. Similarly, 50 mg phosphatidylinositol in each instillation with the first administration immediately after acetic acid administration resulted in complete prevention of the colitis and a significant decrease in mucosal permeability expressed as a plasma exudation into the colonic lumen. Similar results were obtained when phosphatidylcholine was administered immediately after acetic acid, but the drug then had to be applied twice daily. In contrast, a single application of the same total dose (150 mg) of the two different phospholipids, either 30 min before or immediately after acetic acid administration, could not prevent the development of colitis. It is concluded that both phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylinositol have a therapeutic effect on the development of acetic acid-induced colitis in the rat.