5-Hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) has been claimed to mediate intestinal secretion in morphine withdrawal diarrhea through stimulation of local prostaglandin formation without involving cyclic adenosine monophosphate. Therefore, experiments were performed to study (a) the effects of exogenous 5-HT and the cyclic adenosine monophosphate-dependent secretagogue, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide, on intestinal prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) formation and (b) the involvement of calcium in the secretory response to close intraarterial infusion of 5-HT, PGE2, or vasoactive intestinal polypeptide in tied-off loops of rat jejunum in vivo. 5-Hydroxytryptamine and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide reversed fluid absorption to net secretion (p less than 0.01), but only 5-HT caused an increase in luminal PGE2 output (p less than 0.01). Indomethacin and d,l-verapamil prevented only the secretory effect of 5-HT. Exogenous PGE2 (1.6-160 ng/min) reversed absorption to secretion (p less than 0.01) in a dose-dependent manner, irrespective of whether the rats were pretreated with indomethacin or not. Racemic and l-verapamil, but not d-verapamil, markedly reduced (p less than 0.01) the secretory effect of physiologically low doses of PGE2 (1.6 and 16 ng/min), whereas high doses of PGE2 (160 ng/min), which caused a significant increase in mucosal cyclic adenosine monophosphate (p less than 0.005), were not inhibited by verapamil. These data suggest that PGE2 may be an important intermediate in the transduction mechanism leading to 5-HT-induced intestinal secretion, and that physiologic doses of PGE2 may act by facilitating calcium entry, rather than by increasing intracellular calcium through activation of the adenylate cyclase.