The present study was designed to evaluate the ability of allopurinol to limit infarct size following permanent coronary occlusion in the greyhound. Coronary occlusion was produced by injecting 2.5 mm plastic beads into the coronary artery of the closed chest dog. Non-perfused myocardium, the area at risk, was visualised by autoradiography of 141Cerium labelled microspheres which were infused immediately following coronary embolization. The treated dogs (n = 12) received 400 mg of allopurinol orally one day before surgery. A 25 mg . kg-1 bolus was administered (iv) immediately before occlusion, and repeated every 8 h. 11 dogs served as controls. After 24 h, the dogs were killed and the hearts were sliced into 5.0 mm transverse sections. The infarcted myocardium was visualised by triphenyl tetrazolium chloride staining. The percentage of the risk zone which evolved to infarct was calculated. This percentage was 18.1 +/- 3.95% in the allopurinol group vs 58.4 +/- 2.81% in the control group (p less than 0.001). We conclude that allopurinol is a potent drug for the limitation of infarct size in the dog with permanent coronary occlusion.