The participation of carbonic anhydrase (CA II) in the gastric acid secretory process has been the subject of considerable controversy. We utilized a cDNA probe for CA II to measure CA II gene expression in canine gastric parietal cells that had been stimulated with the three principal acid secretagogues, carbachol, gastrin, and histamine. Hybridization to dot blots of total parietal cell RNA showed a significant increase in specific CA II mRNA content within minutes of secretagogue addition: carbachol stimulation led to an increase of 52 +/- 8.9%, reaching a maximum within 20 min; gastrin stimulation led to an increase within 60 min of 104 +/- 10.6%; stimulation with histamine was followed within 20 min by an increase of 30 +/- 7.2%. We also measured transcription rates for the CA II gene in cells stimulated by each agent and found an increase within 15 min. Our results show that CA II gene expression is regulated by agents that stimulate the parietal cell to secrete acid and that the accumulation of CA II mRNA subsequent to the initial interaction of stimulant appears to result from new transcription of the CA II gene. These data suggest the participation of CA II in the acid secretory response of the parietal cell to secretagogues.