We have investigated the quantitative relationship between sucrase inhibition and reduction in the 0-3 h glycemic response to an oral dose of sucrose in rats. Castanospermine is a quasi-irreversible sucrase inhibitor that did not dissociate from sucrase during tissue preparation or assay for sucrase activity. An oral dose of castanospermine (0.1-3.0 mg/kg body wt) dose-dependently reduced sucrase activity of intestinal segments by 15-90%; 0.4 mg/kg body wt reduced total sucrase activity about 50%. The lower doses inhibited sucrase much more extensively in the proximal than in the distal segments. Castanospermine also dose-dependently reduced the 0-3 h glycemic response to sucrose; 1.5 mg/kg body wt reduced the glycemic response about 50%. Each submaximal castanospermine dose inhibited total sucrase activity more than it reduced the glycemic response. We conclude that intestinal sucrase activity in the rat is in modest excess relative to the rate-determining step of glucose absorption following sucrose administration. Fourteen days of castanospermine treatment (0.2 mg.kg body wt-1.d-1) resulted in sucrase inhibition that was similar to a single castanospermine treatment, suggesting that castanospermine treatment resulted in neither cumulative sucrase inhibition nor induction of sucrase activity.