Metabolic acidosis frequently complicates sepsis and septic shock and may be deleterious to cellular function. Different types of metabolic acidosis (e.g., hyperchloremic and lactic acidosis) have been associated with different effects on the immune response, but direct comparative studies are lacking. Murine macrophage-like RAW 264.7 cells were cultured in complete medium with lactic acid or HCl to adjust the pH between 6.5 and 7.4 and then stimulated with LPS (Escherichia coli 0111:B4; 10 ng/ml). Nitric oxide (NO), IL-6, and IL-10 levels were measured in the supernatants. RNA was extracted from the cell pellets, and RT-PCR was performed to amplify corresponding mediators. Gel shift assay was also performed to assess NF-kappa B DNA binding. Inc easing concentrations of acid caused increasing acidification of the media. Trypan blue exclusion and lactate dehydrogenase release demonstrated that acidification did not reduce cell viability. HCl significantly increased LPS-induced NO release and NF-kappa B DNA binding at pH 7.0 but not at pH 6.5. IL-6 and IL-10 expression (RNA and protein) were reduced with HCl-induced acidification, but IL-10 was reduced much more than IL-6 at low pH. By contrast, lactic acid significantly decreased LPS-induced NO, IL-6, and IL-10 expression in a dose-dependent manner. Lactic acid also inhibited LPS-induced NF-kappa B DNA binding. Two common forms of metabolic acidosis (hyperchloremic and lactic acidosis) are associated with dramatically different patterns of immune response in LPS-stimulated RAW 264.7 cells. HCl is essentially proinflammatory as assessed by NO release, IL-6-to-IL-10 ratios, and NF-kappa B DNA binding. By contrast, lactic acidosis is anti-inflammatory.