The objective of the study was to estimate changes in extracellular pH (pHe) and intracellular pH (pHi) during seizures and in the recovery period following the arrest of seizure activity. Seizures of 5- and 20-min duration were induced in rats by fluorothyl added to the insufflated gas mixture, and recovery for 5, 15, and 45 min was instituted by withdrawal of the fluorothyl supply following 20 min of continuous seizures. Changes in pHe were measured by double-barreled, liquid ion-exchange pH microelectrodes, and in pHi by the CO2 method, following estimation of tissue PCO2 and extracellular fluid (ECF) volume. The animals were either normoxic or rendered moderately hypoxic (arterial PO2 40-50 mm Hg). Upon induction of seizures in normoxic animals, pHe decreased by a mean of 0.36 unit, the values being identical at 5 and 20 min. In moderate hypoxia, seizures sustained for 20 min were accompanied by a further fall in pHe (mean decrease 0.51 unit). The changes in pHe seemed mainly to reflect the nonionic diffusion of lactic acid from cells to the ECF (tissue lactate levels approximately 10 and 15 mumol g-1 during seizures in normoxic and hypoxic animals, respectively). However, the gradual fall in pHe attributable able to lactic acid production was preceded by rapid acidification, sometimes exceeding the steady-state values subsequently attained. This acidification was interpreted to reflect spreading depression and fast transcellular Na+/H+ exchange. Following cessation of seizure discharge, pHe normalized at a surprisingly slow rate, with some acidosis persisting even after 45 min. The difference between cerebrovenous and arterial PCO2 was reduced during seizures and increased in the recovery period, probably reflecting alterations in the blood flow/metabolic rate coupling. Impedance changes were slight, indicating only minor changes in ECF volume. Changes in pHi after 5 min of seizures ranged from 0.20 (normoxic animals) to 0.32 (hypoxic animals) unit, the pHi values after 20 min being 0.07-0.08 unit higher. The results suggest the regulation of pHi during ongoing seizures. Upon arrest of seizure activity, pHi rapidly increased to normal and subsequently to supranormal values. Postepileptic intracellular alkalosis occurred at a time when pHe was still reduced and in spite of the fact that tissue lactate values had not normalized. It is concluded that the rapid normalization of pHi and overt alkalosis were caused by the simultaneously occurring oxidation of lactate, with the removal of a stoichiometrical amount of H+, and the extrusion of H+ from cells, possibly via a Na+/H+ exchanger, the latter probably delaying normalization of pHe.