The antioxidant capacity of the avian intestinal mucosa is potentially important in protecting the gut wall from the harmful actions of reactive oxygen species originating from the diet, mucosal metabolism and the inflammatory response to enteric microbes. To assess this capacity, we determined the total lipid-soluble and water-soluble antioxidant activities of mucosal extracts, using tissue from different parts of the intestinal tract of the chicken. The lipid-soluble antioxidants, vitamin E and carotenoids, were also measured in the same samples. Total lipid-soluble antioxidant activity was highest in mucosa from the duodenum followed by the jejunum, with much lower activities in the ileum, ceca and colon. Total water-soluble antioxidant activity of the mucosa was at least an order of magnitude greater than the lipid-soluble activity under the assay conditions and did not differ significantly among the different parts of the intestinal tract. High concentrations of vitamin E were present in the mucosa of the duodenum and jejunum, with a trend to lower levels in the ileum and ceca, and significantly less in the colon. Similarly, the mucosa of the duodenum and jejunum contained the highest concentrations of carotenoids, with much lower levels in the ileum and colon. The different isoforms of vitamin E were absorbed from the digesta by the mucosa without any major selectivity. However, the liver was greatly enriched with alpha-tocopherol over the other isoforms, indicating a high degree of discrimination by this tissue. The results indicate major differences in the relative contributions of lipid- and water-soluble antioxidants in the mucosa along the different parts of the intestinal tract, most likely reflecting the sites of vitamin E and carotenoid absorption. (c) 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.