During metabolic acidosis, P(i) serves as an important buffer to remove protons from the body. P(i) is released from bone together with carbonate buffering protons in blood. In addition, in the kidney, the fractional excretion of phosphate is increased allowing for the excretion of more acid equivalents in urine. The role of intestinal P(i) absorption in providing P(i) to buffer protons and compensating for loss from bone during metabolic acidosis has not been clarified yet. Inducing metabolic acidosis (NH(4)Cl in drinking water) for 2 or 7 days in mice increased urinary fractional P(i) excretion twofold, whereas serum P(i) levels were not altered. Na(+)-dependent P(i) transport in the small intestine, however, was stimulated from 1.89 +/- 3.22 to 40.72 +/- 11.98 pmol/mg protein (2 days of NH(4)Cl) in brush-border membrane vesicles prepared from total small intestine. Similarly, the protein abundance of the Na(+)-dependent phosphate cotransporter NaPi-IIb in the brush-border membrane was increased 5.3-fold, whereas mRNA levels remained stable. According to immunohistochemistry and real-time PCR NaPi-IIb expression was found to be mainly confined to the ileum in the small intestine, and this distribution was not altered during metabolic acidosis. These results suggest that the stimulation of intestinal P(i) absorption during metabolic acidosis may contribute to the buffering of acid equivalents by providing phosphate and may also help to prevent excessive liberation of phosphate from bone.