The feeding of diets enriched with ascorbic acid (10 g/kg) to rats has previously been shown to lower plasma and liver copper concentrations. The present studies corroborate this. We hypothesized that ascorbic acid initially reduces copper absorption, this effect being masked later by the stimulatory effect on copper absorption of the impaired copper status. We also hypothesized that the impaired copper status as induced by ascorbic acid feeding is followed by a diminished biliary excretion of copper in an attempt to preserve copper homeostasis. Our hypotheses are supported by the present studies. Ascorbic acid feeding initially reduced apparent copper absorption, and in the course of the experiment this effect tended to turn over into a stimulatory effect. Copper deficiency, as induced by feeding a diet containing 1 mg Cu/kg instead of 5 mg Cu/kg, systematically increased copper absorption. Biliary excretion of copper in rats given ascorbic acid was unaffected initialy but became depressed after prolonged ascorbic acid feeding. A similar time course was seen for fecal endogenous copper excretion that was calculated as the difference between true and apparent copper absorption. Copper deficiency systematically reduced biliary copper excretion and fecal endogenous copper loss.