Myocardial substrate extraction, coronary sinus flow, left ventricular pressure, and cardiac output were measured in 11 patients with angina pectoris at three pacing rates before and after atenolol (0.2 mg/kg). Left ventricular pressures, and the product of systolic pressure time index and heart rate did not change, but max dP/dt and KV max fell after atenolol. Only at the lowest pacing rate did the drug reduce cardiac output. Coronary sinus blood flow and myocardial oxygen uptake did not change after atenolol. At the highest pacing rate before atenolol four patients developed angina, accompanied by a rise in end-diastolic pressure. After atenolol angina was abolished in three, but the end-diastolic pressure still rose at the highest pacing rate. Myocardial lactate extraction ratio fell as heart rate increased, and was lower in the patients who developed angina. After atenolol, lactate extraction ratio increased significantly at the highest and lowest pacing rates. Myocardial pyruvate extraction rose after the drug. Arterial concentrations of hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate fell after atenolol, but the decrease in their extraction was not significant. Myocardial extraction of free fatty acids was related to arterial concentration, which fell after atenolol. The changes in lactate and pyruvate extraction after atenolol were related inversely to changes in arterial free fatty acid concentration suggesting that the improvement in myocardial metabolism could have been secondary to reduced peripheral lipolysis. The increase in lactate extraction was associated with relief of angina, but did not abolish the rise in end-diastolic pressure induced by pacing.