The relationships between pHi (intracellular pH) and phosphate compounds were evaluated by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) in normo-, hypo-, and hypercapnia, obtained by changing fractional inspired concentration of CO2 in dogs anesthetized with 0.75% isoflurane and 66% N2O. Phosphocreatine (PCr) fell by 2.02 mM and Pi (inorganic phosphate) rose by 1.92 mM due to pHi shift from 7.10 to 6.83 during hypercapnia. The stoichiometric coefficient was 1.05 (r2 = 0.78) on log PCr/Cr against pHi, showing minimum change of ADP/ATP and equilibrium of creatine kinase in the pH range of 6.7 to 7.25. [ADP] varied from 21.6 +/- 4.1 microM in control (pHi = 7.10) to 26.8 +/- 6.3 microM in hypercapnia (pHi = 6.83) and 24.0 +/- 6.8 microM in hypocapnia (pHi = 7.17). ATP/ADP X Pi decreased from 66.4 +/- 17.1 mM-1 during normocapnia to 25.8 +/- 6.3 mM-1 in hypercapnia. The ADP values are near the in vitro Km; thus ADP is the main controller. The velocity of oxidative metabolism (V) in relation to its maximum (Vmax) as calculated by a steady-state Michaelis-Menten formulation is approximately 50% in normocapnia. In acidosis (pH 6.7) and alkalosis (pH 7.25), V/Vmax is 10% higher than the normocapnic brain. This increase of V/Vmax is required to maintain cellular homeostasis of energy metabolism in the face of either inhibition at extremes of pH or higher ATPase activity.