Acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs) are neuronal Na(+) channels that belong to the epithelial Na(+) channel/degenerin family. ASICs are transiently activated by a rapid drop in extracellular pH. Conditions of low extracellular pH, such as ischemia and inflammation in which ASICs are thought to be active, are accompanied by increased protease activity. We show here that serine proteases modulate the function of ASIC1a and ASIC1b but not of ASIC2a and ASIC3. We show that protease exposure shifts the pH dependence of ASIC1a activation and steady-state inactivation to more acidic pH. As a consequence, protease exposure leads to a decrease in current response if ASIC1a is activated by a pH drop from pH 7.4. If, however, acidification occurs from a basal pH of approximately 7, protease-exposed ASIC1a shows higher activity than untreated ASIC1a. We provide evidence that this bi-directional regulation of ASIC1a function also occurs in neurons. Thus, we have identified a mechanism that modulates ASIC function and may allow ASIC1a to adapt its gating to situations of persistent extracellular acidification.