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Twenty-four German Merino sheep (72.3±10.1 kg of body weight) were fed an all-hay diet and assigned to either the subacute ruminal acidosis (SARA) treatment (n=17) or sham treatment (n=7). The SARA sheep were orally dosed with a 2.2 M glucose solution to supply 5 g of glucose/kg of body weight, whereas sham sheep received an equal volume of water. Ruminal pH was measured for 48 h before and 3 h after the oral dose. Sheep were then killed and ruminal epithelia from the ventral sac were mounted in Ussing chambers. The serosal-to-mucosal flux rate of partially (3)H-labeled mannitol (J(mannitol-SM)), an indicator of barrier function, was measured while epithelia were exposed to 3 sequential in vitro measurement periods lasting 1 h each. The measurement periods consisted of baseline, challenge, and recovery periods and were interspersed by 30-min periods for treatment equilibration. Baseline conditions were pH 6.1 (mucosal solution) and pH 7.4 (serosal solution) with a bilateral osmolarity of 293 mOsm/L. During the challenge period, the mucosal side of the epithelia was exposed to either an acidotic challenge (pH 5.2, osmolarity 293 mOsm/L) or an osmotic challenge (pH 6.1, osmolarity 450 mOsm/L); a third group served as control (pH 6.1, osmolarity 293 mOsm/L). The mucosal buffer solution was replaced for the recovery period. In vivo, sheep on the SARA treatment had lower mean (5.77 vs. 6.67) and nadir (5.48 vs. 6.47) ruminal pH for the 3h following the oral drench compared with sham sheep, indicating the successful induction of SARA with the oral glucose dose. Despite the marked reduction in pH in vivo, induction of SARA had no detectable effects on the baseline measurements of J(mannitol-SM), tissue conductance (G(t)), and short-circuit current (I(sc)) in vitro. However, reducing mucosal pH to 5.2 in vitro had negative effects on epithelial barrier function in the recovery period, including increased J(mannitol-SM), increased G(t), and decreased I(sc). The osmotic challenge increased J(mannitol-SM) and G(t) and decreased I(sc) during the challenge period, which was reversible in the recovery period except for slight reduction in I(sc). Interactions between the in vitro treatment and measurement period were detected for J(mannitol-SM), G(t), and I(sc). These data indicate that a mild episode of SARA (nadir pH, 5.48; duration ruminal pH <5.8, 111 min relative to the 180-min measurement period) does not affect ruminal epithelial barrier function immediately after the episode but that a rapid and more severe acidification (pH 5.2) in vitro increases epithelial permeability following the insult.