Probiotics are widely used as functional foods which have been advocated for the maintenance of gastrointestinal microflora equilibrium and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. However, studying the role of probiotics in peptic ulcer disease is limited. The aim of the present study is to investigate the effect of a probiotic strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG on gastric ulcer and to elucidate the mechanisms involved. Gastric kissing ulcers were induced in rats by acetic acid (60% v/v). L. rhamnosus GG was given intragastrically at 10(8) cfu/day or 10(9) cfu/day for three consecutive days after ulcer induction. L. rhamnosus GG successfully colonized in the gastric mucosa especially at the ulcer margin. It also significantly and dose-dependently reduced gastric ulcer area. Cell apoptosis to cell proliferation ratio was strongly decreased and accompanied by significant up-regulation of ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) and B-cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2) protein expression at the ulcer margin. Angiogenesis was also significantly stimulated together with the induction of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression. Furthermore, L. rhamnosus GG up-regulated the phosphorylation level of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGF receptor) without altering the total EGF receptor expression. These findings suggested that L. rhamnosus GG enhanced gastric ulcer healing via the attenuation of cell apoptosis to cell proliferation ratio and increase in angiogenesis. Regulators of these processes such as ODC, Bcl-2, VEGF and EGF receptor are likely to be involved in the healing action of L. rhamnosus GG for gastric ulcer.