The half-life of dehydroascorbate (DHA) in human plasma is only a few minutes. This DHA disappearance is caused by a cleavage of lactone ring. Similarly, when DHA was incubated in Dulbecco's modified Eagle's medium (D-MEM), which stood in atmosphere of 5% CO2-95% air, the rapid transformation of DHA into 2,3-diketogulonate (2,3-DKG) is also observed. These observations suggest that both human plasma and D-MEM contain a common component, which promotes the hydrolysis of DHA. In the present study, this component was identified to be bicarbonate which acts as a general base catalyst. Direct evidence for this mechanism was obtained as follows: (1) significant hydrolysis of DHA in the bicarbonate-free D-MEM (pH 7.40) was not observed; (2) hydrolysis of DHA in Tris-HCl buffer at constant pH (7.4) increases with increasing bicarbonate concentration; and (3) significant hydrolysis of DHA in the decarbonated ultrafiltrate of plasma was not observed. These results suggest that DHA hydrolysis may be controlled by the variation of CO2 pressure in circulating blood.