We questioned whether polyamines coming from the diet or produced by intestinal microflora or by intracellular metabolism influence intestinal functions. Therefore, we compared pathogen-free rats and germ-free rats receiving a diet with low polyamine content and either treated or not treated with difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) and/or methylglyoxal bis (guanylhydrazone) (MGBG). Wet weight, protein content, DNA content, sucrase (EC184.108.40.206), maltase (EC 220.127.116.11) and lactase (EC 18.104.22.168) specific activities, amounts of putrescine, spennidine and spemine were measured in the mucosa of the proximal and distal intestine. Body weight was also determined. Rats without microflora had a higher specific activity of maltase and higher amounts of spermidine and spermine but lower lactase specific activity than pathogen-free animals; the low-polyamine diet given to gem-free rats had little effect on the functional variables measured (decrease of maltase and lactase specific activities) and did not modify the amounts of polyamines. DFMO and/or MGBG administered to germ-free rats receiving a low-polyamine diet induced modifications of most of the variables studied. Body weight and wet weight of proximal and distal intestine decreased, disaccharidase specific activities decreased, and amounts of polyamines changed according to the inhibitor used. Thus, our results showed that the deprivation of polyamine supply from microflora or from the diet failed, under our experimental conditions, to affect the intestinal properties analysed but exogenous and endogenous polyamine restriction altered general properties of the organism as well as intestinal functions.