Relative volume variations in cultured astrocytes were examined by microspectrofluorimetry after loading the cells with the highly fluorescent intracellular probes 2,7-bis(carboxyethyl)-5,6-carboxyfluorescein (BCECF/AM) or fura-2/AM. At their isosbestic points, 450 nm and 358 nm, respectively, the probes were ion-insensitive and the fluorescent signals emitted related only to the intracellular dye concentration. By varying the excitation wavelengths, changes in intracellular pH or Ca2+ transients could be recorded simultaneously with the relative volume variations of the individual cells. After exposure to a hypotonic buffer, type 1 astrocytes swelled within 30 s and subsequently underwent regulatory volume decrease (RVD). When exposed to a hypertonic buffer, the astrocytes shrunk and exhibited regulatory volume increase (RVI). One mM glutamate induced an increase in astrocyte volume in 60 sec and evoked cytosolic Ca2+ transients but did not change intracellular pH.