The cardioprotective effects of nifedipine, verapamil, diltiazem, bepridil, CERM 11956, lidoflazine, mioflazine and the coronary vasodilator dipyridamole were evaluated in the guinea-pig working heart with respect to cardiac function and high energy phosphate content after 45 min of global ischaemia and 25 min of reperfusion. All drugs, with the exception of dipyridamole, induced a negative inotropic effect, which resulted in a decrease of the aortic pressure (Ao P), of its first derivative dAo P/dt and the cardiac output. To compare the anti-ischaemic effect of the calcium antagonists, concentrations were selected that reduced the dAo P/dt by 10% (EC10) and 30% (EC30), respectively. With the exception of nifedipine at the EC10 and bepridil and CERM 11956 at the EC30, perfusion with the calcium antagonists and dipyridamole (3 μmol/l) improved the recovery of contractile function after global ischaemia and reperfusion to a value between 60 and 80% of the controls in normoxic hearts. Pretreatment with nifedipine, verapamil, diltiazem, lidoflazine and mioflazine, but not with bepridil, CERM 11956 and dipyridamole led to slightly increased ATP levels in ischaemic hearts as compared to the control value in ischaemic hearts. After subsequent reperfusion for 25 min, for all drugs, ATP levels were further enhanced to 50% of the level in normoxic hearts; phosphocreatine levels reached normoxic values. In particular at the EC30, the effects of calcium antagonists on cardiac function varied in accordance with their known pharmacological and physiological profile. However, there appeared to exist no direct relationship between their beneficial effects on contractile activity and those on the levels of high energy phosphates after ischaemia and reperfusion.