The "apparent" fractional turnover rate of the gamma-labeled bile acid analogue 75selenohomocholic acid-taurine (75SeHCAT) was assessed from decline in radioactivity over the gallbladder area on 4 successive days using a gamma-camera, and was compared in the same subjects with the fractional turnover rate of the corresponding natural bile acid, cholic acid-taurine, labeled with 14C ([14C]CAT) using the classical Lindstedt technique. Very similar results were obtained in 5 healthy individuals (coefficient of variation 4.8%, medians 0.35 and 0.34, respectively). By contrast, the fractional deconjugation rate assessed from zonal scanning of glycine- and taurine-conjugated bile acids on thin-layer chromatography was much less for 75SeHCAT than for [14C]CAT (0.02 and 0.13, respectively; p less than 0.05). The fractional rate for deconjugation plus dehydroxylation was also determined by zonal scanning, and gave lower values for 75SeHCAT than for [14C]CAT (0.02 and 0.12, respectively; p less than 0.05). There was a striking similarity between the fractional rate for deconjugation alone and that for deconjugation plus dehydroxylation for both bile acids in individual samples (r = 0.999, p less than 0.001), suggesting that these two processes might occur simultaneously and probably involve the same bacteria. We conclude that our scintiscanning technique provides an accurate, noninvasive method of measuring fractional turnover rate of a bile acid in humans, and that the finding that 75SeHCAT remains conjugated with taurine during enterohepatic recycling means that absorption should be specific for the ileal active transport site, thus rendering it an ideal substance for assessing ileal function.