The intestinal absorption, biliary excretion and metabolism of genistein, a potent and specific protein tyrosine kinase inhibitor that occurs naturally in soy foods, was examined in anesthetized, adult female rats fitted with indwelling biliary cannulas. 4-14C-Genistein, when infused into the duodenum, was rapidly absorbed from the intestine, taken up by the liver and excreted into the bile as its 7-O-β-glucuronide conjugate. Cumulative recovery of 14C-radioactivity in the bile over a 4-h period was 70-75% of the dose. When genistein was infused into the portal vein, it was also taken up efficiently by the liver, conjugated with glucuronic acid and transported into bile. However, portal blood collected after duodenal infusions of genistein contained mostly genistein 7-O-β-glucuronide, suggesting that in vivo glucuronidation occurred in the intestinal wall rather than the live. This was confirmed using everted intestinal sac preparations. Reinfusion of genistein 7-O-β-glucuronide into the duodenum or into the mid small intestine resulted in its reappearance in the bile, albeit more slowly than when genistein was infused. Over a 4-h collection period, the cumulative recovery of 14C-radioactivity in bile was 27 and 7075% of the administered dose for duodenal and ileal infusions, respectively. These data indicate that genistein is highly bioavailable in rats and because of its enterohepatic circulation may accumulate within the gastrointestinal tract.