After jejunectomy, a rapid and sustained increase in the abundance of proglucagon mRNA occurs in residual ileum and is accompanied by increases in plasma intestinal proglucagon-derived peptides. This response may be a component of adaptive growth, or proglucagon-derived peptides may regulate adaptive growth. To distinguish these possibilities, rats were treated with difluoromethylornithine, blocking ornithine decarboxylase activity and thereby adaptive bowel growth. Three groups fed ad libitum were compared: (1) resect: rats with 80% proximal small bowel resection; (2) resect + difluoromethylornithine: resected rats given difluoromethylornithine in drinking water; and (3) transect: transected controls. Six days after surgery, the resect + difluoromethylornithine group demonstrated inhibition of adaptive bowel growth. Abundance of ileal proglucagon mRNA in resect and resect + difluoromethylornithine groups was double that in the transect group (P < 0.02), whereas ornithine decarboxylase mRNA levels did not differ. Plasma enteroglucagon and glucagon-like peptide-I levels were greater in resect than transect groups (P < 0.002) and did not differ between resect and resect + difluoromethylornithine groups. The rise in ileal proglucagon mRNA after proximal small bowel resection is not inhibited by difluoromethylornithine despite blocking bowel growth and, therefore, is not merely a component of adaptive growth. Proglucagon-derived peptides are possible modulators of adaptive bowel but cannot stimulate growth when ornithine decarboxylase activity is inhibited.