This study examined whether indomethacin-induced increases in small intestinal permeability in man are prevented by concomitant administration of a prostaglandin analog (misoprostol). Twelve male volunteers were tested as baseline, following misoprostol alone (200 micrograms, at -16, -12, -8.5, -4, -1.5, and +4 hr); following indomethacin alone (75 mg, at -8; 50 mg, -1 hr); and following coadministration of misoprostol and indomethacin as specified above. A 100-ml test solution containing 3-O-methyl glucose (0.2 g), D-xylose (0.5 g), L-rhamnose (1.0 g), and [51Cr]EDTA (100 microCi) was ingested at 8 AM, and a 5-hr collection made for marker analysis to assess active and passive carrier-mediated transport and trans- and intercellular permeation, respectively. Indomethacin increased the permeation of [51Cr]EDTA selectively, and this increase was significantly reduced by the coadministration of misoprostol. These changes were mirrored by changes in [51Cr]EDTA-L-rhamnose urine excretion ratios, which indicates that paracellular permeability was specifically altered. This study supports the suggestion that NSAIDs alter intestinal permeability by a mechanism involving reduced prostaglandin synthesis and indicates that coadministration of misoprostol with NSAIDs may reduce the frequency and severity of NSAID-induced small intestinal inflammation.