Transport activities involved in intracellular pH (pH(i)) recovery after acid or alkali challenge were investigated in cultured rat brain microvascular endothelial cells by monitoring pH(i) using a pH-sensitive dye. Following relatively small acid loads with pH(i) approximately 6.5, HCO(-)(3) influx accounted for most of the acid extrusion from the cell with both Cl(-)-independent and Cl(-)-dependent, Na(+)-dependent transporters involved. The Cl(-)-independent component has the same properties as the NBC-like transporter previously shown to account for most of the acid extrusion near the resting pH(i). Following large acid loads with pH(i) < 6.5, most of the acid extrusion was mediated by Na(+)/H(+) exchange, the rate of which was steeply dependent on pH(i). Concanamycin A, an inhibitor of V-type ATPase, had no effect on the rates of acid extrusion. Following an alkali challenge, the major component of the acid loading leading to recovery of pH(i) occurred by Cl(-)/HCO(-)(3) exchange. This exchange had the same properties as the AE-like transporter previously identified as a major acid loader near resting pH(i). These acid-loading and acid-extruding transport mechanisms together with the Na(+), K(+), ATPase may be sufficient to account not only for pH(i) regulation in brain endothelial cells but also for the net secretion of HCO(-)(3) across the blood-brain barrier.