The properties of three mucins were examined to identify the structural features responsible for their functional differences. Bovine submaxillary mucin (BSM), porcine gastric mucin (PGM), and rat intestinal mucin (RIM) were each characterized, and high carbohydrate contents were found for RIM and PGM. The amino acid compositions were typical of mucin glycoproteins, with over half comprising small, neutral amino acids. Thereafter, each mucin was equilibrated with three different series of concentrations of the bile salts sodium taurocholate, sodium taurodeoxycholate, and sodium taurochenodeoxycholate. Following multiple centrifugations, the supernatant and mucin pellet concentrations of the bile salts were measured. The bile salt pellet concentration was plotted as a function of supernatant concentration, and from the slopes, the excluded volumes were calculated as 25, 29-44, and 28-55 mL/g for BSM, RIM, and PGM, respectively. The intercepts were 8-10, 2-3, and 1-3 mM for BSM, RIM, and PGM, respectively, which represents an estimate of the bound concentration of bile salt. Differences among the bile salts were observed in the excluded volume and amount bound, but no trends were evident. The bile salts may interact as aggregates with the hydrophobic areas and carbohydrate side chains of the mucins, providing favorable sites for association. The binding at low concentrations with exclusion at high concentrations is significant for modulating the absorption of lipid aggregates from the intestine. Finally, the differences among the mucins reflect the unique structure-function relationship of these gastrointestinal mucins.