Acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs), activated by a decrease of extracellular pH, are found in neurons throughout the nervous system. They have an amino acid sequence similar to that of ion channels activated by membrane stretch, and have been implicated in touch sensation. Here we characterize the pH-dependent activation of ASICs in cerebellar Purkinje cells and investigate how they are modulated by factors released in ischaemia. Lowering the external pH from 7.4 activated an inward current at -66 mV, carried largely by Na+ ions, which was half-maximal for a step to pH 6.4 and was blocked by amiloride and gadolinium. The H+-gated current desensitized within a few seconds, but approximately 30 % of cells showed a sustained inward current (11 % of the peak current) in response to the maintained presence of pH 6 solution. The peak H+-evoked current was potentiated by membrane stretch (which occurs in ischaemia when [K+]o rises) and by arachidonic acid (which is released when [Ca2+]i rises in ischaemia). Arachidonic acid increased to 77 % the fraction of cells showing a sustained current evoked by acid pH. The ASIC currents were also potentiated by lactate (which is released when metabolism becomes anaerobic in ischaemia) and by FMRFamide (which may mimic the action of related mammalian RFamide transmitters). These data reinforce suggestions of a mechanosensory aspect to ASIC channel function, and show that the activation of ASICs reflects the integration of multiple signals which are present during ischaemia.