Although preischemic hyperglycemia is known to aggravate damage due to transient ischemia, it is a matter of controversy whether or not this is a result of the exaggerated acidosis. It has recently been reported that although tissue acidosis of a comparable severity could be induced in normoglycemic dogs by an excessive rise in arterial CO2 tension, short-term functional recovery was improved, rather than compromised. In the present experiments we induced excessive hypercapnia (PaCO2, approximately 300 mm Hg) in normoglycemic rats before inducing forebrain ischemia of 10-min duration. This reduced the brain extracellular pH to values normally encountered in hyperglycemic rats subjected to ischemia. The events induced by hypercapnia clearly enhanced ischemic brain damage, as assessed histologically after 7 days of recovery. We hypothesize that the decisive event was an exaggerated decrease in extra- and intracellular pH and that the results thus demonstrate an adverse effect of acidosis. However, since postischemic seizures did not occur in the hypercapnic ischemic rats, the results also demonstrate that changes in intra-extracellular pH and bicarbonate concentrations modulated ischemic damage in an unexpected way.