The effect of Tris-Hydroxymethyl Aminomethane (THAM) on intracellular pH (pHi) is unknown. We previously demonstrated that the effect of sodium bicarbonate on pHi depends on the non-bicarbonate buffering system. First, human hepatocytes from hepatocytes cell culture (HepG2) were perfused with an acidotic artificial medium containing 5-mmol/L (H5) or 30-mmol/L (H30) concentrations of 4-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperazineethane sulfonic acid (HEPES), a non-bicarbonate buffer. We studied the effect of THAM on the pHi in both conditions. We repeated the same protocol using an acidotic human blood with a 5% or 40% hematocrit. The pHi was measured with the pH-sensitive fluorescent dye bis-carboxyethyl carboxy-fluorescein (BCECF). Gas analysis was performed before and during the alkaline infusion. The results showed that THAM caused an intracellular alkalization that was higher when the non-bicarbonate buffer concentration was low (0.45 +/- 0.21 and 0.22 +/- 0.14 pH units with H5 and H30, respectively). A significant relationship was found between changes in pHi and changes in PCO(2). Similar results were obtained with the human blood. In conclusion, the intracellular alkalizing effect of THAM is caused by the induced decrease of PCO(2) linked to the extracellular non-bicarbonate buffer capacity: The smaller the concentration of extracellular non-bicarbonate buffer, the higher the PCO(2) decrease caused by THAM.