We investigated the effects of an elemental diet fed parenterally or enterally on total mucosal protein and lactase phlorizin hydrolase (LPH) synthesis. Catheters were placed in the stomach, jugular vein, and carotid artery of 12 3-day-old pigs. Half of the animals were given an elemental regimen enterally and the other half parenterally. Six days later, animals were infused intravenously with [2H3]leucine for 6 h and killed, and the midjejunum of each animal was collected for analysis. The weight of the midjejunum was 8 +/- 1.5 and 17 +/- 1.6 g in parenterally fed and enterally fed piglets, respectively. LPH activities (mumol.min-1.g protein-1) were significantly higher in parenterally vs. enterally fed piglets. Total small intestinal LPH activities were lower in parenterally vs. enterally fed animals. The abundance of LPH mRNA relative to elongation factor-1 alpha mRNA was not different between groups. The fractional synthesis rate of total mucosal protein and LPH was significantly lower in parenterally fed animals (67 +/- 7 and 66 +/- 7%/day, respectively) than in enterally fed animals (96 +/- 7 and 90 +/- 6%/day, respectively). The absolute synthesis rate (the amount of protein synthesized per gram of mucosa) of total mucosal protein was significantly lower in parenterally fed than in enterally fed piglets. However, the absolute synthesis rate of LPH was unaffected by the route of nutrient administration. These results suggest that the small intestine partially compensates for the effects of parenteral feeding by maintaining the absolute synthesis rate of LPH at the same levels as in enterally fed animals.