High pH is known to be associated with normal cell growth and neoplastic transformation. We observed that Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells grown under sustained alkaline stress (pH 7.7) develop "foci" composed of spindle-shaped cells lacking contact inhibition and exhibiting only poor adhesion to the culture support. Foci-developing (F) cells were cloned and grown in control medium (pH 7.4), where they maintained their neoplastic features indicating a stable pH-induced genetic transformation. After F cells had been fused to giant cells with polyethylene glycol, the cell membrane potential (Vm) was measured by means of microelectrodes. In contrast to non-transformed MDCK cells, Vm of F cells showed spontaneous biorhythmicity caused by periodic opening of Ca2(+)-activated K+ channels. Spiking activity was blunted by the Ca2+ channel blocker nifedipine, by the K+ channel blocker Ba2+, by the Na+/H+ exchange blocker amiloride and its analogue ethylisopropylamiloride, and by an extracellular pH of 7.6 and 6.8. We conclude that MDCK cells transformed by sustained alkaline stress have lost their stable plasma membrane potential but, instead, exhibit endogenous Ca2(+)- and pH-sensitive oscillations.