Experimental and clinical evidence indicates that AcCoA:arylamine N-acetyltransferases (NATs; EC 126.96.36.199) are involved in the bioactivation and inactivation of a wide variety of arylamine, hydrazine, and carcinogenic arylamine xenobiotics. Longitudinal distribution of NATs in the intestine of the hamster, mouse, and two strains of rat was examined utilizing the model arylamine substrates procainamide(PA) and p-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) for the monomorphic (NAT1) and polymorphic (NAT2) enzymes in the rodent. NAT1 and NAT2 were distributed quite differently in each species examined. In particular, rat intestinal NATs were distributed equally throughout the intestinal tract. In contrast, hamster intestinal NATs decreased in activity from the proximal small intestine to the distal large intestine. Mouse NAT2 activity was highest in the cecum, whereas NAT1 was highest in the proximal small intestine. Although these model substrates have been shown to be selective for NATs, they are not specific. Therefore, a series of biochemical studies were undertaken to evaluate NAT multiplicity in the intestine of the F-344 rat. To assess multiplicity of NAT expression, selective inhibition, differential sensitivity to heat inactivation, and kinetic analysis were performed on intestinal cytosol. Eadie-Hofstee transformation of PA N-acetylation yielded a curvilinear plot indicative that a low affinity-high capacity enzyme aside from NAT1 (presumably NAT2) was contributing to PA N-acetylation activity. PA activity was found to exhibit approximately 4- to 5-fold greater thermostability than PABA activity. Furthermore, PA acetylation could be inhibited selectively with vinyl fluorenyl ketone (2.5 to 5 microM) but not with methotrexate (up to 2 mM). Taken together, these studies suggest the expression of both NAT1 and NAT2 in the intestine of the F-344 rat.