Cardiac cellular Ca(2+) transient (CaT) alternans and electrocardiographic T-wave alternans (TWA) often develop in myocardial ischemia, but the mechanisms for this relationship have not been elucidated. Acidosis is a major component of ischemia, but there is no direct evidence linking acidosis-induced cellular CaT alternans to ischemia-induced CaT alternans and TWA in whole heart. We used laser-scanning confocal microscopy to measure intracellular Ca(2+) (Ca(i)(2+)) cycling in individual myocytes of fluo-4 AM-loaded rat hearts and simultaneously recorded pseudo-ECGs to investigate changes in CaTs and late-phase repolarization, respectively, during baseline and rapid pacing under control and either globally acidic or globally ischemic conditions. Acidosis (hypercapnia; pH 6.6) increased diastolic Ca(i)(2+) levels, prolonged CaT duration, and shifted to slower heart rates both the development of pacing-induced acidosis-induced CaT alternans (both concordant and discordant) and of repolarization alternans (RPA, a measure of TWA in rat ECGs). The magnitudes of these shifts were equivalent for both CaT alternans and RPA, suggesting a close association between them. Nearly identical results were found in low-flow global ischemia. Additionally, ischemic preconditioning reduced the increased propensity for CaT alternans and RPA development and was mimicked by preconditioning by acidosis alone. Our results demonstrate that global acidosis or ischemia modifies Ca(i)(2+) cycling in myocytes such that the diastolic Ca(i)(2+) rises and the cellular CaT duration is prolonged, causing spatially concordant as well as spatially discordant cellular CaT alternans to develop at slower heart rates than in controls. Since RPA also developed at slower heart rates, our results suggest that acidosis is a major contributor to CaT alternans, which underlies the proarrhythmic state induced by myocardial ischemia and therefore may play a role in its modulation and prevention.