Interdigestive intestinal motility, and especially phase III of the migrating myoelectric/motor complex (MMC), is responsible for intestinal clearance and plays an important role in prevention of bacterial overgrowth and translocation in the gut. Yet previous results from gnotobiotic rats have shown that intestinal microflora can themselves affect the characteristics of the myoelectric activity of the gut during the interdigestive state. Given that the composition of the intestinal microflora can be altered by dietary manipulations, we investigated the effect of supplementation of the diet with synbiotics on intestinal microflora structure and the duodenojejunal myoelectric activity in the rat. To reduce animal distress caused by restraint and handling, which can itself affect GI motility, we applied radiotelemetry for duodenojejunal EMG recordings in conscious, freely moving rats. Thirty 16-month-old Spraque-Dawley rats were used. The diet for 15 rats (E group) was supplemented with chicory inulin, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis. The remaining 15 rats were fed control diet without supplements (C group). Three rats from each group were implanted with three bipolar electrodes positioned at 2, 14 and 28 cm distal to the pylorus. After recovery, two 6 h recordings of duodenojejunal EMG were carried out on each operated rat. Subsequently, group C rats received feed supplements and group E rats received only control diet for 1 week, and an additional two 6 h recordings were carried out on each of these rats. Non-operated C and E rats were killed and samples of GI tract were collected for microbiological analyses. Supplementation of the diet with the pro- and prebiotics mixture increased the number of bifidobacteria, whereas it decreased the number of enterobacteria in jejunum, ileum, caecum and colon. In both caecum and colon, the dietary supplementation increased the number of total anaerobes and lactobacilli. Treatment with synbiotics increased occurrence of phase III of the MMC at all three levels of the small intestine. The propagation velocity of phase III in the whole recording segment was also increased from 3.7 +/- 0.2 to 4.4 +/- 0.2 cm min(-1) by dietary treatment. Treatment with synbiotics increased the frequency of response potentials of the propagated phase III of the MMC at both levels of the jejunum, but not in the duodenum. In both parts of the jejunum, the supplementation of the diet significantly decreased the duration of phase II of the MMC, while it did not change the duration of phase I and phase III. Using the telemetry technique it was demonstrated that changes in the gastrointestinal microflora exhibited an intestinal motility response and, more importantly, that such changes can be initiated by the addition of synbiotics to the diet.