Intestinal epithelial intercellular tight junctions (TJs) provide a rate-limiting barrier restricting passive transepithelial movement of solutes. TJs are highly dynamic areas, and their permeability is changed in response to various stimuli. Defects in the intestinal epithelial TJ barrier may contribute to intestinal inflammation or leaky gut. The gastrointestinal tract may be the largest extrapineal source of endogenous melatonin. Melatonin released from the duodenal mucosa is a potent stimulant of duodenal mucosal bicarbonate secretion (DBS). The aim of this study was to elucidate the role of melatonin in regulating duodenal mucosal barrier functions, including mucosal permeability, DBS, net fluid flux, and duodenal motor activity, in the living animal. Rats were anesthetized with thiobarbiturate, and a ~30-mm segment of the proximal duodenum with an intact blood supply was perfused in situ. Melatonin and the selective melatonin receptor antagonist luzindole were perfused luminally or given intravenously. Effects on permeability (blood-to-lumen clearance of 51Cr-EDTA), DBS, mucosal net fluid flux, and duodenal motility were monitored. Luminal melatonin caused a rapid decrease in paracellular permeability and an increase in DBS, but had no effect on duodenal motor activity or net fluid flux. Luzindole did not influence any of the basal parameters studied, but significantly inhibited the effects of melatonin. The nonselective and noncompetitive nicotinic acetylcholine receptor antagonist mecamylamine abolished the effect of melatonin on duodenal permeability and reduced that on DBS. In conclusion, these findings provide evidence that melatonin significantly decreases duodenal mucosal paracellular permeability and increases DBS. The data support the important role of melatonin in the neurohumoral regulation of duodenal mucosal barrier.