In order to study the influence of hydrogen bonding in the amide backbone of a peptide on permeability across a cell membrane, a series of tetrapeptide analogues was prepared from D-phenylalanine. The amide nitrogens in the parent oligomer were sequentially methylated to give a series containing from one to four methyl groups. The transport of these peptides was examined across confluent monolayers of Caco-2 cells as a model of the intestinal mucosa. The results of these studies showed a substantial increase in transport with each methyl group added. Only slight difference in the octanol-water partition coefficient accompanied this alkylation, suggesting that the increase in permeability is not due to lipophilicity considerations. These observations are, however, consistent with a model in which hydrogen bonding in the backbone is a principal determinant of transport. Methylation is seen to reduce the overall hydrogen bond potential of the peptide and increases flux by this mechanism. These results suggest that alkylation of the amides in the peptide chain is an effective way to improve the passive absorption potential for this class of compounds.