We investigated the role of kinin and nitric oxide (NO) in the modulation of cardiac O(2)consumption in Syrian hamsters with overt heart failure (HF) and age-matched normal hamsters. Using echocardiography, the hamsters with heart failure had reduced ejection fraction [31(+/-8) v 76(+/-5)%] and LV dilation [4.9(+/-0. 2) v 5.7(+/-0.3) mm, both P<0.05 from normal]. O(2)consumption in the left ventricular free wall was measured using a Clark-type O(2)electrode in an air-tight chamber, containing Krebs solution buffered with Hepes (37 degrees C, pH 7.4). Concentration response curves to bradykinin (BK), ramiprilat (RAM), amlodipine (AMLO) and the NO donor, S -nitroso- N -acetyl-penicillamine (SNAP) were performed. Basal myocardial O(2)consumption was lower in the HF group compared to normal [316(+/-21) v 404(+/-36) nmol O(2)/min/g, respectively, P<0.05]. In the hearts from normal hamsters BK (10(-4)mol/l), RAM (10(-4)mol/l), and AMLO (10(-5)mol/l) all significantly reduced myocardial O(2)consumption by 42(+/-6)%, 29(+/-7)% and 27(+/-5)% respectively. This reduction was attenuated in the presence of N -nitro- l -arginine methyl ester (l -NAME) [BK: 3.3(+/-1.5)%, RAM: 3.3(+/-1.2)%, AMLO: 2.3(+/-1.2)%, P<0.05]. Interestingly in the hearts from HF group, BK, RAM and AMLO caused a significantly smaller reduction in myocardial O(2)consumption [10(+/-2)%, 2.5(+/-1.3)%, 6.3(+/-2.3)%, P<0.05]. In contrast, the NO donor SNAP reduced myocardial O(2)consumption in both groups and all those responses were not affected by l -NAME. These data indicate that endogenous NO production through the kinin-dependent mechanism is impaired at end-stage heart failure. The loss of kinin and NO control of mitochondrial respiration may contribute to the pathogenesis of heart failure.