Dietary nucleoside (DN) as a precursor for nucleic acid synthesis may be important for rapidly dividing cells, since gut epithelial cells have limited capacity for de novo purine and pyrimidine synthesis. We evaluated in a controlled blinded study the effect of added nucleosides, 0.8% by weight, given for 2 weeks, on gut growth and maturation in 20 weanling rats. Mucosal protein and DNA in the proximal intestinal segment were 50% and 77% higher, respectively, in the DN-supplemented group (n = 10; p less than 0.05). Villus height based on cell count was 25% greater in the DN group (p less than 0.05). Maltase activity was significantly greater in proximal, middle, and distal intestinal segments, and the largest increase, 87%, was seen in the proximal gut mucosa. The maltase/lactase ratio was also higher in this segment. Increases in sucrase were less prominent. Lactase was minimally affected. The pattern of change in disaccharidase activity suggests that DN may enhance gut growth and maturation of the intestine in the weanling rat, the effects being more pronounced in the proximal segment. Diets free of nucleosides and nitrogenous bases may have adverse effects on the gut.