Circadian rhythms of DNA synthesis and cellular proliferation in the gastrointestinal mucosa have been well documented in animal models. This investigation was designed to determine whether similar rhythms could be demonstrated in the human rectal epithelium: 24 studies were performed in 16 healthy men under fasting (n = 14) and fed (n = 10) conditions. Rectal mucosal biopsy specimens were obtained through a proctoscope every 2 or 3 hours for a 24-hour span. Ex vivo measurements of tritiated thymidine incorporation into DNA were made on the mucosal samples. Feeding and time of day were each found to have an effect on the rate of thymidine incorporation into the DNA of rectal mucosal cells. Both fasted and fed subjects showed significant circadian rhythms in thymidine incorporation, which peaked at about 7 AM. Fasting lowered the overall mean thymidine uptake without altering the rhythm. Thymidine uptake generally reflects the amount of DNA synthesis in the sampled tissue. Therefore, these data may be important in the design of cancer chemotherapeutic regimens that use drugs specifically active during DNA synthesis.