Intracellular free calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i) and intracellular pH (pHi) were monitored in Ehrlich ascites tumor cells using Fura-2 or 2',7',-bis-(2-carboxyethyl)-5,6-carboxyfluorescein (BCECF), or both probes in combination. An increase in [Ca2+]i induced by thrombin or bradykinin, agonists known to elicit transient cell shrinkage in these cells, evoked a transient intracellular acidification, followed by an alkalinization. The latter was due to activation of a Na+/H+ exchanger and was inhibited under conditions preventing agonist-induced cell shrinkage without preventing the increase in [Ca2+]i. In contrast, a smaller, slower increase in [Ca2+]i elicited by thapsigargin did not cause cell shrinkage, and did not activate the Na+/H+ exchanger. Exposure to hypertonic solution was not associated with an increase in [Ca2+]i, but elicited an intracellular alkalinization similar to that induced by thrombin or bradykinin, via activation of the Na+/H+ exchanger. Thus, activation of the exchanger by the Ca2+-mobilizing agonists is suggested to be secondary to the cell shrinkage induced by these compounds. NH4Cl-induced intracellular alkalinization resulted in an increase in [Ca2+]i, apparently via stimulation of Ca2+ influx, whereas shrinkage-induced intracellular alkalinization did not stimulate Ca2+ influx. Thus, cell shrinkage appears to inhibit the Ca2+ influx otherwise resulting from alkalosis. In agreement with that notion, thapsigargin-induced Ca2+ influx was inhibited by cell shrinkage.