Solid tumours develop an acidic extracellular environment with high concentration of lactic acid, and lactic acid produced by glycolysis has been assumed to be the major cause of tumour acidity. Experiments using lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)-deficient ras-transfected Chinese hamster ovarian cells have been undertaken to address directly the hypothesis that lactic acid production is responsible for tumour acidification. The variant cells produce negligible quantities of lactic acid and consume minimal amounts of glucose compared with parental cells. Lactate-producing parental cells acidified lightly-buffered medium but variant cells did not. Tumours derived from parental and variant cells implanted into nude mice were found to have mean values of extracellular pH (pHe) of 7.03 +/- 0.03 and 7.03 +/- 0.05, respectively, both of which were significantly lower than that of normal muscle (pHe = 7.43 +/- 0.03; P < 0.001). Lactic acid concentration in variant tumours (450 +/- 90 microg g(-1) wet weight) was much lower than that in parental tumours (1880 +/- 140 microg/g(-1)) and similar to that in serum (400 +/- 35 microg/g(-1)). These data show discordance between mean levels of pHe and lactate content in tumours; the results support those of Newell et al (1993) and suggest that the production of lactic acid via glycolysis causes acidification of culture medium, but is not the only mechanism, and is probably not the major mechanism responsible for the development of an acidic environment within solid tumours.