The role of the vagus nerve and cholinergic mechanisms in the control of rabbit jejunal mucin and protein release was investigated in vivo. In anesthetized animals, a 10-cm segment of the jejunum was cannulated and perfused with saline. Perfusate was collected and analyzed for mucin (by immunoassay) and protein. Bilateral cervical vagotomy had no effect on basal mucin or protein output, suggesting that the vagus nerve does not exert a tonic control on jejunal macromolecule secretion. Electrical stimulation of the vagi did not alter mucin release, even in the presence of muscarinic cholinergic (scopolamine) or adrenergic (propranolol and phentolamine) blockade. In contrast, protein output increased significantly after vagal stimulation, an effect inhibited by scopolamine. In both vagotomized and vagally intact rabbits, the cholinergic agonist bethanechol (200 micrograms/kg intraperitoneally) induced a scopolamine-sensitive increase in both mucin and protein output. Predominantly serum proteins were released into intestinal perfusates after vagal or cholinergic stimulation. It is concluded that the extrinsic vagus nerve does not regulate rabbit jejunal mucin secretion in vivo and that cholinergic control of intestinal goblet cells is implemented entirely by the intrinsic enteric nervous system. In addition, cholinergic or vagal stimulation increases intestinal vascular and epithelial permeability, resulting in the passage of serum proteins into the lumen, possibly by opening tight junctions and paracellular pathways.