We have developed a simple and reproducible rat model of chronic colonic inflammation by the intraluminal instillation of a solution containing a "barrier breaker" and a hapten. Administration of the hapten 2,4,6-trinitrobenzenesulfonic acid (5-30 mg) in 0.25 ml of 50% ethanol as the "barrier breaker" produced dose-dependent colonic ulceration and inflammation. At a dose of 30 mg, trinitrobenzenesulfonic acid/ethanol-induced ulceration and marked thickening of the bowel wall persisted for at least 8 wk. Histologically, the inflammatory response included mucosal and submucosal infiltration by polymorphonuclear leukocytes, macrophages, lymphocytes, connective tissue mast cells, and fibroblasts. Granulomas were observed in 57% of the rats killed 3 wk after induction of inflammation. Langhan's-type giant cells were also observed. Segmental ulceration and inflammation were common. The characteristics and relatively long duration of inflammation and ulceration induced in this model afford an opportunity to study the pathophysiology of colonic inflammatory disease in a specifically controlled fashion, and to evaluate new treatments potentially applicable to inflammatory bowel disease in humans.