The transit of two lipid mediators of inflammation, leukotriene B4 (LTB4) and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), and a formylated peptide produced by intestinal bacteria, N-formylmethionylleucylphenylalanine (FMLP), across Caco-2 cell monolayers was characterized and compared with the transit of mannitol, a hexose known to cross epithelial monolayers by paracellular pathways. The permeability of less mature low-resistance ( < 200 ohm.cm2) monolayers to all four test compounds was similar, but as monolayers matured and the transmonolayer resistance increased, the transit of LTB4, PGE2, FMLP, and mannitol decreased to different degrees, resulting in a selectivity of permeability to the four test compounds in the order LTB4 > PGE2 > mannitol > FMLP. The transit of all four test compounds across Caco-2 cell monolayers was bidirectional, nonsaturable, and energy independent. A small portion of the added LTB4 was incorporated into the cells, whereas the other three compounds were not. Thus the transit of PGE2, mannitol, and FMLP across Caco-2 monolayers appears to be solely by the paracellular pathway, whereas the transit of LTB4 also involves the paracellular pathway but may also involve diffusion through the cell membrane and around tight junctions.