Administration of an elemental diet to rats given methotrexate (MTX), 20 mg/kg intraperitoneally (ip), results in 100% mortality from severe enterocolitis. Previous studies indicate that glutamine (GLN), which is not present in elemental diets, is the preferred oxidative substrate for the gut and may facilitate intestinal recovery after injury. This study investigated the effects of a glutamine-supplemented elemental diet (GLN-ED) on nutritional status, intestinal morphometry, bacterial translocation and survival in this lethal model of intestinal injury. Three experiments were performed. In the first experiment, rats received an intragastric elemental diet supplemented with either 2% GLN or an equivalent amount of glycine (Control). After 4 days animals received either MTX, 20 mg/kg ip, or saline ip and were killed 3 days later. The GLN-ED resulted in significantly decreased weight loss, improved nitrogen retention, and increased mucosal weight, protein, and DNA content of the jejunum and colon. In the second experiment rats were assigned to diet as in the first experiment, but all animals received MTX. Control diet animals died within 120 hrs of MTX administration. The GLN-ED group had significantly longer survival time and decreased mortality. In the third experiment animals were assigned to diet and MTX as in the first experiment. Ninety-six hrs later aortic blood cultures revealed enteric bacteremia in animals administered MTX. GLN-ED resulted in a significant reduction in the incidence of bacteremia. These experiments showed that a GLN-ED significantly improved nutritional status, decreased intestinal injury, decreased bacterial translocation, and resulted in improved survival in a lethal model of enterocolitis.