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This study investigated the enhancement effect of gramicidin, a cationic ionophore, on percutaneous absorption of a model drug, benzoic acid (BA), through rat abdominal skin. The mechanisms by which gramicidin increased skin permeability to BA were also investigated. Degree of hydration measured by the Karl Fisher method, the concentration gradient measured by cryostat analysis, and lipid concentration measured by the. Fiske-Subbarow method were evaluated and compared. The results showed that BA permeation profiles through rat abdominal skin followed dose- and volume-dependent patterns. The pretreatment of gramicidin increased the permeation rate of BA through rat abdominal skin compared with the untreated control (18.89 vs. 10.86 μ g/cm2 hour). Change in skin permeation rate of BA after gramicidin pretreatment was closely correlated with the remaining skin water content. There were no significant differences in the amounts of phospholipid phosphorous between gramicidin pretreated and untreated skin. The enhancing effect of gramicidin on percutaneous absorption of a model drug is mainly a tributed to increasing the diffusivity in the hydration domain of the skin and rearranging the lipid bilayer in the stratum corneum.