Whole animal studies using seawater European flounder (Platichthys flesus) revealed that increasing intestinal [Ca(2+)] to 20 mM stimulated net HCO(3)(-) base secretion by 57%, but this was effectively balanced by an increase in net acid secretion, likely from the gills, to maintain whole animal acid-base status. Higher Ca(2+) concentrations (40 and 70 mM) in ambient seawater resulted in reduced plasma total CO(2). This indicates (1) imperfect acid-base compensation, and (2) that endogenous metabolic CO(2) is insufficient to fuel intestinal HCO(3)(-) secretion, under hyper-stimulated conditions. Bicarbonate secretion plays an important role in preventing calcium absorption by precipitating a large fraction of the imbibed calcium as CaCO(3). Indeed, under high Ca(2+) conditions (20 mM), up to 75% of the intestinal Ca(2+) is precipitated as CaCO(3) and then excreted. This is undoubtedly important in protecting the marine teleost kidney from the need for excessive calcium excretion and risk of renal stone formation. Using an in vitro pH-stat technique with the isolated intestinal epithelium, the replacement of serosal CO(2) with a HEPES buffered saline had no effect on HCO(3)(-) secretion, indicating that the endogenous supply of HCO(3)(-) from CO(2) hydration within epithelial cells is adequate for driving baseline secretion rates. Further, in vitro data demonstrated a stimulatory effect of low pH on intestinal HCO(3)(-) secretion. Thus, both luminal Ca(2+) and H(+) can regulate HCO(3)(-) secretion but the precise mechanisms and their potential interaction are currently unresolved.