The aim of this study was to clarify the mechanism by which caprylocaproyl macrogol-8 glyceride (Labrasol) enhances the intestinal absorption of gentamicin sulfate (GM), a drug that has poor permeability but relatively high solubility. We studied the following characteristics: (i) the phase behavior of Labrasol in aqueous solution, (ii) the affinity of GM to Labrasol micelles, and (iii) the interaction between Labrasol and membrane lipids. We measured the critical micelle concentration of Labrasol in aqueous solution to be approximately 0.01%. The average diameters of Labrasol micelles in 2% and 25% solutions were approximately 10 nm and 20 nm, respectively, indicating that micelles increase in size with increasing Labrasol concentration. Although GM dissolved in 5% Labrasol solution was dialyzable, GM dissolved in either 25% or 50% Labrasol solutions was not, suggesting that GM exists in the hydrophilic region of the Labrasol micelle or in the high affinity region of the micelle surface where GM is retained. In membrane permeability experiments and electrophysiological studies conducted with rat ileum, only 25% Labrasol solution enhanced GM permeability, but did not remarkably affect membrane resistance. Furthermore, Labrasol increased membrane lipid fluidity as determined by fluorescence anisotropy in porcine intestinal brush border membrane liposomes. These results suggest that high concentrations of Labrasol solution enhance membrane permeability of GM via a transcellular rather than a paracellular route. We propose the following mechanism: Labrasol micelles grow when the concentration of Labrasol exceeds 20%, at which point GM shows high affinity for the hydrophilic region of the micelles. Since Labrasol micelles increase membrane lipid fluidity, the membrane permeability of GM is concomitantly enhanced.