1. The activities of some membrane-bound enzymes such as adenylate cyclase, Na++K+-stimulated adenosine triphosphatase (Na++K+-ATPase), Ca2+-stimulated ATPase and Mg2+-stimulated ATPase were examined in heart sarcolemmal fractions from control and cardiomyopathic hamsters at different stages of heart failure.
2. The basal adenylate cyclase activity in sarcolemma from cardiomyopathic animals with early, moderate and late stages of heart failure was not different from the control values whereas the sodium fluoride- and catecholamine-stimulated adenylate cyclase activities were depressed in cardiomyopathic sarcolemma at moderate and late stages.
3. The sarcolemmal Na++K+-ATPase activity was decreased and the non-specific phosphatase activity was increased at early, moderate and late stages of heart failure.
4. The sarcolemmal Ca2+-ATPase activity was decreased at moderate and late stages whereas the Mg2+-ATPase activity was decreased at the late stages of heart failure only.
5. A marked decrease was found in calcium binding by heart sarcolemma from cardiomyopathic hamsters at late stages of failure.
6. These results suggest that dramatic sarcolemmal changes are associated with heart failure, and support the view that membrane abnormalities play a crucial role in the development of myocardial dysfunction.