The effects of anionic (sodium dodecyl sulfate and sodium dioctyl sufosuccinate) and nonionic (polysorbate 80 and polyoxyl 40 hydrogenated castor oil) synthetic surfactants and bile acids (sodium taurocholate, sodium taurodeoxycholate, and sodium taurodihydrofusidate) on epithelial integrity were studied in monolayers of human intestinal epithelial (Caco-2) cells grown on microporous polycarbonate filters. The effects of the surfactants on intracellular enzyme activity, cell monolayer permeability, and morphology were studied. The effects on permeability were studied by two methods: measurements of transport of marker molecules (mannitol and polyethylene glycol) and measurements of transepithelial electrical resistance. All surfactants demonstrated concentration-dependent effects on intracellular enzyme activities, permeability, and morphology. The effects of the anionic surfactants were more pronounced than those of the nonionic surfactants. The effects on transepithelial electrical resistance correlated with intracellular dehydrogenase activity. Fluxes of marker molecules were the most sensitive measure of epithelial integrity. The results indicate that the hydrophilic marker molecules permeate the epithelial monolayers through different pathways at different concentrations of the surfactants. The effects of the surfactants were reversible at intermediate concentrations, even though the morphology of the monolayers had changed. The results agree with published data obtained with experimental animals and indicate that Caco-2 cells can be used to study the concentration-dependent effects of surfactants and other pharmaceutical additives on intestinal epithelial permeability.