Previous studies have shown degradation of cardiac structural proteins and disruption of the sarcolemma as a result of acute myocardial infarction. However, there is no evidence to date on changes in sarcolemmal membrane proteins induced by experimental subacute myocardial infarction. We studied subepicardial layers overlying myocardial infarct 4 days following ligation of the left anterior descending coronary artery in 12 dog hearts. We first demonstrated that this layer provides the anatomic-electrophysiologic substrate for reentrant arrhythmias using activation mapping techniques and histologic correlations. The makeup of membrane proteins was studied using SDS polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, peptide mapping, and laser densitometry. Sarcolemmal membrane proteins were isolated by ultracentrifugation through a sucrose gradient. We found that a sarcolemmal polypeptide (MW 126,000; n = 12) in the normal tissues has a different mobility than the corresponding protein (MW 124,000; n = 12) of the ischemic tissues although their peptide analysis appeared similar, suggesting that the protein undergoes a post-translational modification. In addition, two proteins (MW 75,000; n = 12 and MW 88,000; n = 12) were present in greater amount in the ischemic than in the control tissues suggesting either acceleration in protein synthesis or slow down of degradation turnover. These results demonstrate that specific changes occur in membrane proteins subjected to ischemic insults which might be responsible for membrane alterations following ischemia and may contribute to the abnormal electrophysiologic properties and arrhythmia seen in vivo at this stage.