Mechanical ventilation can worsen morbidity and mortality by causing ventilator-associated lung injury, especially where adverse ventilatory strategies are employed. Adverse strategies commonly involve hyperventilation, which frequently results in hypocapnia. Although hypocapnia is associated with significant lung alterations (e.g., bronchospasm, airway edema), the effects on alveolar-capillary permeability are unknown. We investigated whether hypocapnia could cause lung injury independent of altering ventilatory strategy. We hypothesized that hypocapnia would cause lung injury during prolonged ventilation, and would worsen injury following ischemia-reperfusion. We utilized the isolated buffer-perfused rabbit lung model. Pilot studies assessed a range of levels of hypocapnic alkalosis. Experimental preparations were randomized to control groups (FI(CO(2)) = 0.06) or groups with hypocapnia (FI(CO(2)) = 0.01). Following prolonged ventilation, pulmonary artery pressure, airway pressure, and lung weight were unchanged in the control group but were elevated in the group with hypocapnia; elevation in microvascular permeability was greater in the hypocapnia versus control groups. Injury following ischemia-reperfusion was significantly worse in the hypocapnia versus control groups. In a preliminary series, degree of lung injury was proportional to the degree of hypocapnic alkalosis. We conclude that in the current model (1) hypocapnic alkalosis is directly injurious to the lung and (2) hypocapnic alkalosis potentiates ischemia-reperfusion-induced acute lung injury.