In vivo uptake of the probe 51Cr-labeled EDTA from the jejunum of egg albumin (EA)-sensitized rats was compared with controls at baseline and after intraluminal antigen challenge. Probe recovery in blood was 60-80% greater in sensitized animals during the baseline period, suggesting that sensitization resulted in increased intestinal permeability. Sensitized, but not control, rats demonstrated a 15-fold increase in 51Cr-EDTA uptake after intraluminal antigen; no change occurred with an unrelated protein. Macromolecular recovery was also enhanced in sensitized animals, since serum levels of immunoreactive EA were elevated 14-fold compared with controls. Antigen challenge was accompanied by biochemical (protease release) and morphological (reduced numbers) evidence of mast cell degranulation in sensitized rats. The neurotoxin tetrodotoxin (applied directly to ligated jejunal segments) inhibited EA-induced uptake of 51Cr-EDTA and antigen. In isolated jejunum from sensitized rats, tetrodotoxin reduced secretory responses to luminal, but not serosal, antigen. These results indicate that neural factors may influence the uptake of molecules from the gut lumen during intestinal anaphylaxis.