We have studied the transport of acetate across the isolated epithelium of sheep omasum; no net transport was observed (J(ms) approximately = J(sm)) under Ussing chamber conditions. Low mucosal pH (pH 6.4) significantly enhanced J(ms) acetate and the transport rates of acetate increased linearly and significantly (r2=0.99) with the luminal acetate concentration. The presence of another short chain fatty acid (propionate) did not affect J(ms) acetate significantly. Neither addition of 1 mmol l(-1) DIDS to the mucosal side nor HCO3 replacement caused changes of J(ms) acetate; this does not support the assumption of acetate transport via anion exchange. Addition of 1 mmol l(-1) amiloride to the mucosal side significantly decreased acetate fluxes at high mucosal acetate concentration (100 mmol l(-1)) and low pH (6.4) indicating interaction between acetate uptake in the undissociated form, intracellular release of protons and activation of Na+/H+ exchange (NHE). However, the mutual interaction between Na transport via NHE and acetate transport is asymmetric. Stimulation or inhibition of Na transport via NHE is much more pronounced than the corresponding changes of acetate fluxes. Thus, the obtained results support the conclusion that acetate is transported via simple diffusion and probably predominantly in the protonated form, thereby explaining the positive and mutual interaction between Na transport and short chain fatty acids.