In previous studies we showed that rats sensitized to egg albumin respond to in vivo intraluminal antigen with decreased net absorption of Na+, Cl-, and water. These abnormalities are associated with high serum levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies and mucosal mast cell degranulation. In the present in vitro study electrical parameters, unidirectional fluxes of Na+ and Cl-, and levels of cAMP were determined in jejunum from sensitized and control rats during a basal period and after antigen addition. In Ussing chambers potential difference and short-circuit current increased significantly in tissue from sensitized rats after addition of 100 micrograms/ml of egg albumin to both mucosal and serosal surfaces. These changes were accompanied by a reversal of net Cl- absorption to net Cl- secretion. The presence of doxantrazole, a mast cell-stabilizing agent, in the buffer prevented these abnormalities. No changes occurred in response to antigen challenge in tissue from controls. In a further series of experiments the antigen was added only to the mucosal side of the tissue in Ussing chambers. In these studies short-circuit current increased after a lag period of approximately 25 min and was significantly increased (P less than 0.025) at 35 min. cAMP levels increased significantly in jejunal slices from sensitized rats exposed to antigen for 2 min. Our findings suggest that the in vivo transport abnormalities induced by IgE-mediated mucosal reactions to a food protein are related to antigen stimulation of a Cl- secretory process.