1. Reperfusion of the globally ischaemic isolated rat heart is associated with an enhanced overflow of endogenous noradrenaline (NA) after ischaemic periods of 20, 40 or 60 min but not of 10 min.
2. Reperfusion NA overflow, after 40 min of ischaemia, is suppressed by desipramine and increased when ischaemia follows a period of substrate deprivation.
3. Reperfusion after 40 min of ischaemia is associated with a significant rise in NA concentration despite a simultaneous 20-fold increase in flow. This increase in concentration is abolished by treatment with desipramine or if ischaemia follows a period of substrate deprivation.
4. Reperfusion NA overflow correlates with the reperfusion overflow of an extracellular space marker infused before the ischaemic episode.
5. These results suggest that ischaemia is heterogeneous and that NA is released into regions of particularly profound ischaemia from which it is subsequently eluted during reperfusion.