This study was designed to study the mechanism of electroneutral Na and Cl transport across the isolated rumen epithelium of sheep. Net sodium transport (5.75 +/- 0.35 microequiv cm-2 h-1) was significantly higher than the short-circuit current (0.95 +/- 0.08 microequiv cm-2 h-1). Both, net sodium and net chloride transport were markedly reduced by replacement of chloride, bicarbonate and sodium, respectively, but were not changed by the absence of mucosal potassium. Net sodium and net chloride absorption was significantly decreased by 1.0 mM-amiloride. Mucosal addition of bumetanide, furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide or low concentrations of amiloride (less than 0.1 mM) did not change sodium fluxes. These results provide compelling evidence consistent with the presence of Na-H exchange as the predominant electroneutral mechanism for transepithelial sodium movement. The ion replacement studies and data from literature suggest that the Na-H exchange is working in parallel with a Cl-HCO3 exchange although luminal addition of DIDS (4,4'diisothiocyanatostilbene-2,2'-disulphonate, 1 mM) did not significantly influence Cl transport.