To evaluate the effect of luminal bicarbonate on calcium reabsorption, rat proximal tubules were perfused in vivo. Perfusion solution contained mannitol to reduce water flux to zero. Total Ca concentration was measured by atomic absorption spectrometry, Ca ion concentration in the tubule lumen (CaL2+) and the peritubular capillary (CaP2+), and luminal pH (pHL) with ion-selective microelectrodes and transepithelial voltage (VTE) with conventional microelectrodes. When tubules were perfused with buffer-free Cl-containing solution, net Ca absorption (JCa) averaged 3.33 pmol/min. Even though VTE was 1.64 mV lumen-positive, CaL2+, 1.05 mM, did not fall below the concentration in the capillary blood, 1.07 mM. When 27 mM of Cl was replaced with HCO3, there was luminal fluid acidification. Despite a decrease in VTE and CaL2+, JCa increased to 7.13 pmol/min, indicating that the enhanced JCa could not be accounted for by the reduced electrochemical gradient, delta CCa. When acetazolamide or an analogue of amiloride was added to the HCO3 solution, JCa was not different from the buffer-free solution, suggesting that HCO3-stimulated JCa may be linked to acidification. To further test this hypothesis, we used 27 mM Hepes as the luminal buffer. With Hepes there was luminal fluid acidification and JCa was not different from the buffer-free solution but delta CCa was significantly reduced, indicating enhanced active calcium transport. We conclude from the results of the present study that HCO3 stimulates active Ca absorption, a process that may be linked to acidification-mediated HCO3 absorption.