The levels of neurotensin (NT) and its metabolite, the N-terminal octapeptide (NT1-8), identified by HPLC and measured by RIA, were increased in the hepatic-portal circulation of the anesthetized rat during perfusion of the small intestine with a lipid solution, while levels of both peptides remained unchanged in the general circulation. There was no significant arteriovenous difference for NT or NT1-8 during saline perfusion of the small intestine. Plasma collected from the superior mesenteric vein during the infusion of [3H]NT into the superior mesenteric artery showed major peaks of radioactivity with the retention times of NT1-8 and NT1-11 on HPLC. Only 12% of the radioactivity recovered from plasma was intact NT. These studies demonstrate that chromatographically identified NT and its metabolite, NT1-8, are elevated in the portal circulation but not systemic circulation during lipid perfusion and that the small intestine may be both the site of release and metabolism of NT.