Colonic function in rats was investigated up to 14 days following exposure to whole-body gamma irradiation (8 Gy) using a combination of in vivo and in vitro approaches. Water and electrolyte fluxes were measured in vivo under anesthesia by insertion of an agarose cylinder into the descending colon. Short-circuit current responses (Isc; basal, agonist-stimulated) of distal colon were measured in vitro as were mannitol and sodium fluxes. Water and electrolyte absorption (Na, Cl) was markedly reduced at four days after irradiation but returned to normal at seven days. Potassium secretion was increased from one to seven days after exposure. There were no differences in basal Isc, Na, or mannitol fluxes at four days but responses to secretagogues (5-hydroxytryptamine, forskolin, carbachol) were attenuated. No morphological alterations were associated with these functional modifications.