Luminal and systemic short chain fatty acids (SCFA) stimulate mucosal proliferation but the mechanism(s) is unclear. This study examined acute effects of systemic SCFAs on gastrointestinal structure and function and signals potentially mediating SCFA-induced mucosal proliferation. Male Sprague-Dawley rats (246+/-2 g) received nutrients as either standard total parenteral nutrition (TPN) or an isoenergetic, isonitrogenous formulation containing SCFAs (TPN + SCFA). Animals were randomized to one of five treatments: standard TPN for 72 hr, TPN + SCFA for 72 hr, or standard TPN followed by TPN + SCFA for the final 6, 12, and 24 hr. SCFAs reduced (P < 0.003) ileal protein within 6 hr. Jejunal GLUT2 expression was increased (P=0.0001) in all SCFA groups and ileal GLUT2 protein in the 6-, 12-, and 24-hr SCFA groups (P < 0.05). SCFAs increased (P < 0.003) ileal proglucagon abundance following 6, 12, and 24 hr, and plasma GLP-2 concentration following 12 hr (P < 0.03). Jejunal c-myc expression was increased (P < 0.001) following 6, 12, and 24 hr of SCFAs. SCFAs increased ileal c-myc, c-jun, and c-fos expression following 24 hr (P < 0.02), 12 hr (P < 0.05) and 6, 12, and 24 hr (P=0.0001), respectively. In conclusion, systemic SCFAs increase plasma GLP-2 and ileal proglucagon mRNA, GLUT2 expression and protein, and c-myc, c-jun, and c-fos expression.