Acute toxic liver failure (ATLF) rapidly leads to brain oedema and neurological decline. We evaluated the ability of ATLF-affected brain to control the ionic composition and acid-base balance of the interstitial fluid. ATLF was induced in 10–12 weeks old male C57Bl mice by single intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection of 100 μg/g azoxymethane (AOM). Analyses were carried out in cerebral cortex of precomatous mice 20–24 h after AOM administration. Brain fluid status was evaluated by measuring apparent diffusion coefficient [ADC] using NMR spectroscopy, Evans Blue extravasation, and accumulation of an intracisternally-injected fluorescent tracer. Extracellular pH ([pH]e) and ([K+]e) were measured in situ with ion-sensitive microelectrodes. Cerebral cortical microdialysates were subjected to photometric analysis of extracellular potassium ([K+]e), sodium ([Na+]e) and luminometric assay of extracellular lactate ([Lac]e). Potassium transport in cerebral cortical slices was measured ex vivo as 86Rb uptake. Cerebral cortex of AOM-treated mice presented decreased ADC supporting the view that ATLF-induced brain oedema is primarily cytotoxic in nature. In addition, increased Evans blue extravasation indicated blood brain barrier leakage, and increased fluorescent tracer accumulation suggested impaired interstitial fluid passage. However, [K+]e, [Na+]e, [Lac]e, [pH]e and potassium transport in brain of AOM-treated mice was not different from control mice. We conclude that in spite of cytotoxic oedema and deregulated interstitial fluid passage, brain of mice with ATLF retains the ability to maintain interstitial ion homeostasis and acid-base balance. Tentatively, uncompromised brain ion homeostasis and acid-base balance may contribute to the relatively frequent brain function recovery and spontaneous survival rate in human patients with ATLF.