Lung carbonic anhydrase (CA) permits rapid pH responses when changes in regional ventilation or perfusion alter airway and alveolar PCO2. These pH changes affect airway and vascular resistances and lung compliance to optimize the balance of regional ventilation (VA) and perfusion (Q) in the lung. To test the hypothesis that these or other CA-dependent mechanisms contribute to VA/Q matching, we administered acetazolamide (25 mg/kg intravenously) to six anesthetized and paralyzed dogs and measured VA/Q relationships before and after CA inhibition by the multiple inert gas elimination technique. Four other groups of dogs were studied to control for possible confounding effects of time under anesthesia and nonselective CA inhibition by acetazolamide: (a) saline placebo as a control for duration of anesthesia, (b) 4% CO2 inhalation to mimic systemic CO2 retention, (c) 1 mg/kg benzolamide (a selective renal CA inhibitor) or 0.5 meq/kg HCl to mimic systemic metabolic acidosis, and (d) 500 mg/kg 4,4'-dinitrostilbene-2,2'-disulfonate (an inhibitor of red cell band 3 protein) to mimic the respiratory acidosis arising from an intracapillary block to rapid mobilization of plasma HCO3- in CO2 exchange. Acetazolamide increased VA/Q mismatch and reduced arterial PO2 measured at equilibrium but these did not occur in the control group. There was no deterioration in VA/Q matching when systemic respiratory acidosis produced either by CO2 inhalation or 4,4'-dinitrostilbene-2,2'-disulfonate or metabolic acidosis (benzolamide or HCl) were imposed to mimic the effects of acetazolamide apart from its inhibition of lung CA. These results support the concept that lung CA subserves VA/Q matching in the normal lung.