1. The activities of ecto- and cytosolic 5′-nucleotidase (EC, adenosine kinase (EC, adenosine deaminase (EC and AMP deaminase (EC were compared in ventricular myocardium from man, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, pigeons and turtles. The most striking variation was in the activity of the ecto-5′-nucleotidase, which was 20 times less active in rabbit heart and 300 times less active in pigeon heart than in rat heart. The cytochemical distribution of ecto-5′-nucleotidase was also highly variable between species. 2. Adenosine formation was quantified in pigeon and rat ventricular myocardium in the presence of inhibitors of adenosine kinase and adenosine deaminase. 3. Both adenosine formation rates and the proportion of ATP catabolized to adenosine were greatest during the first 2 min of total ischaemia at 37 degrees C. Adenosine formation rates were 410 +/- 40 nmol/min per g wet wt. in pigeon hearts and 470 +/- 60 nmol/min per g wet wt. in rat hearts. Formation of adenosine accounted for 46% of ATP plus ADP broken down in pigeon hearts and 88% in rat hearts. 4. The data show that, in both pigeon and rat hearts, adenosine is the major catabolite of ATP in the early stages of normothermic myocardial ischaemia. The activity of ecto-5′-nucleotidase in pigeon ventricle (16 +/- 4 nmol/min per g wet wt.) was insufficient to account for adenosine formation, indicating the existence of an alternative catabolic pathway.

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