The aim of this study was to investigate the functional consequences in vivo of adapting the rat exocrine pancreas to different dietary fats. Weanling rats were fed diets containing 10 wt% virgin olive oil or sunflower oil for 8 wk. We then examined resting and cholecystokinin-octapeptide (CCK-8)-stimulated pancreatic secretion in the anesthetized animals. To confirm a direct influence of the type of fat upon the gland, the FA composition of pancreatic membranes as well as tissue protein and amylase content were determined in separate rats. The membrane FA profile was profoundly altered by the diets, reflecting the type of dietary fat given, although this was not paralleled by variations in the pancreatic content of protein or amylase. Nevertheless, dietary intake of oils evoked different effects on in vivo secretory activity. Resting flow rate and amylase output were significantly (P < 0.05) enhanced by sunflower oil feeding. Time course changes in response to CCK-8 infusion also showed a different pattern in each group. Secretion of fluid, protein, and amylase increased markedly in all animals, reaching a maximum within 20-40 min of infusion that was followed by a dramatic decline in both groups. In the sunflower oil group, this resulted in values reaching the resting level as soon as 60 min after CCK-8 infusion was begun. However, after the initial decline, olive oil group values showed a prolonged plateau elevation above the baseline (P < 0.05) that was maintained for at least the infusion time. In addition, a positive correlation between flow rate and both protein concentration and amylase activity existed in the olive oil group, but not in the sunflower oil group. The precise mechanism by which these effects are produced remains to be elucidated.