Although cyclic adenosine 3':5' monophosphate (cyclic AMP, cAMP) is known to suppress DNA synthesis in cultured cells and experimental tumors, its role in normal intact tissue has been little explored. This study helps to define the influence of modifiers of cyclic AMP levels on DNA synthesis in rabbit colonic mucosa maintained in short term organ culture system. Base line studies showed that incorporation of [3H]thymidine into DNA was linear for 24 hr and predominantly in mucosal cells, as shown by autoradiography. Colon from a normal fed rabbit showed a gradient of DNA synthesis lowest in the cecum and increasing to a maximum, 3 fold greater, at the splenic flexure. This pattern was obliterated by fasting, at which time no formed stool remained in the colon, and all colon mucosa incorporated thymidine at the lower level of the right colon. Known modifiers of intracellular cAMP were found to depress colonic DNA synthesis. Theophylline inhibited DNA synthesis by 35% at 0.5 mM concentration and increased intracellular cAMP levels. This inhibition took 10 hr to be manifest and was at least partly reversible. It was by far the most active of the methylxanthines, consistent with its potency as a phosphodiesterase inhibitor. N6,O2 dibutyryl cyclic AMP inhibited DNA synthesis at concentrations as low as 0.025 mM, whereas adenosine and sodium butyrate were ineffective up to 1.0 mM. 5' AMP did inhibit DNA synthesis, but only at 0.1 mM or higher and did not elevate intracellular cAMP levels. Other modifiers of cAMP which were effective included prostaglandins E1, E2, and F2α (2 x 10-6 M) and papaverine (1 μM). Thymidine uptake was not affected by any of these drugs. The intrinsic thymidine pool was estimated at 20 μM by isotope dilution, and was not altered by theophylline. DNA synthesis in rabbit colon can be suppressed by increased cAMP levels within the time period allowed by organ culture. Thus, these drugs that elevated cAMP levels did not seem to suppress DNA synthesis by decreasing intracellular thymidine concentrations.