Concomitant Na(+)/H(+) and Cl(-)/HCO(3)(-) exchange activation occurs during stimulation of acid secretion in cultured rabbit parietal cells, possibly related to a necessity for volume regulation during the secretory process. We investigated whether cytoplasmic volume changes occur during secretagogue stimulation of cultured rabbit parietal cells. Cells were loaded with the fluorescent dye calcein, and the calcein concentration within a defined cytoplasmic volume was recorded by confocal microscopy. Forskolin at 10(-5) M, carbachol at 10(-4) M, and hyperosmolarity (400 mosmol) resulted in a rapid increase in the cytoplasmic dye concentration by 21 +/- 6, 9 +/- 4, and 23 +/- 5%, respectively, indicative of cell shrinkage, followed by recovery to baseline within several minutes, indicative of regulatory volume increase (RVI). Depolarization by 5 mM barium resulted in a decrease of the cytoplasmic dye concentration by 10 +/- 2%, indicative of cell swelling, with recovery within 15 min, and completely prevented forskolin- or carbachol-induced cytoplasmic shrinkage. Na(+)/H(+) exchange inhibitors slightly reduced the initial cell shrinkage and significantly slowed the RVI, whereas 100 microM bumetanide had no significant effect on either parameter. We conclude that acid secretagoguges induce a rapid loss of parietal cell cytoplasmic volume, followed by RVI, which is predominantly mediated by Na(+)/H(+) and Cl(-)/HCO(3)(-) exchange.