STUDY OBJECTIVE--The aim was to investigate the relationship between urinary cyclic guanosine monophosphate (GMP) excretion and activation of the heart endocrine function in two rat models of cardiac failure. DESIGN--Left ventricular infarction and aging in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) are two models that could lead to congestive heart failure. In the first the degree of failure depends on the length of the infarcted area. In the second the degree of failure depends on time. Urinary cyclic GMP, plasma atrial natriuretic factor (ANF), and degree of congestive heart failure were evaluated in both models. EXPERIMENTAL ANIMALS--31 male Wistar rats were used for myocardial infarction and sham operated controls. Spontaneously hypertensive (SHR) rats (2, 6, 12 and 24 months old, n = 10 per group) were used for the age overload studies. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS--In myocardial infarction, the amount of left ventricular ANF mRNA, plasma ANF concentration, and urinary cyclic GMP excretion were correlated and were proportional to the degree of cardiac failure, as assessed by the increase in right ventricular mass and the decrease in blood pressure. In male SHR (aged 6-24 months), plasma ANF and urinary cyclic GMP were correlated, increased with age, and were proportional to the heart to body weight ratio. These correlations between plasma ANF, daily urinary cyclic GMP excretion, and left ventricular hypertrophy persisted in two year old SHR. The presence of pleural extravasation in these old animals was also characterised by significant increases in both plasma ANF and urinary cyclic GMP. The plasma ANF and the daily urinary cyclic GMP excretion were negative prognostic indicators of life expectancy in two year old SHR. CONCLUSIONS--Urinary cyclic GMP excretion, correlated with the plasma ANF level, is a non-invasive indicator of congestive heart failure in two models of overloaded left ventricle in rats.