1. The effect of vitamin A on the small intestine was examined in vitamin-A-deficient meat-type chickens. 2. Maturation and activity of the small intestinal cells were assayed by detection of proliferating cells with proliferating cells nuclear antigen, goblet cells with Alcian blue, mature cells with alkaline phosphatase and extent of RNA expression with dot blot analysis. 3. Vitamin A deficiency caused hyperproliferation of enterocytes, a decrease in the number of goblet cells, decreased alkaline phosphatase activity and decreased expression of 2 brush-border enzymes. 4. Our findings suggest that the absence of vitamin A interferes with the normal growth rate in chickens because it influences functionality of the small intestine by altering proliferation and maturation of cells in the small intestinal mucosa.