The purpose of this present investigation was to determine if the presence of exogenous nutrients constitutes a prerequisite for acid modification of thermal damage and to determine if thermal cytotoxicity is affected by nutrient availability under acid conditions. To this end, Chinese hamster ovary cells (CHO) were heated (42 degrees or 43 degrees C) and/or irradiated in either McCoy's medium containing 10% fetal bovine serum or glucose free Hanks Balanced Salt Solution (HBSS). Both thermal sensitivity and thermal radiosensitization were increased when CHO cells were treated under acid conditions (e.g., pH 6.8) compared to alkaline conditions (e.g., pH 7.2), independent of the media used. Furthermore, decreasing nutrient availability increased thermal cytotoxicity, but the increase was greatest at pH 7.2 compared to pH 6.8. This study indicates that thermal sensitivity is more dependent upon pH than upon nutrient availability.