Effects of ouabain on force of contraction were compared in electrically driven isolated tissue preparations of guinea-pig left atria and diaphragm. A distinct and steady positive inotropic effect of ouabain was observed in atrial preparations, whereas in diaphragm preparations, ouabain produced only a slight and transient positive inotropic effect, followed by the negative inotropic phase. The transient positive inotropic effect of ouabain was observed even in the absence of extracellular calcium, but was markedly dependent on the extracellular sodium concentration. In vitro [3H]ouabain binding studies revealed that the affinity of Na+,K+-ATPase for ouabain was about eight times higher and tissue concentration of the enzyme was significantly lower in diaphragm than in cardiac tissue. The Ki value for ouabain inhibition of the cardiac Na+,K+-ATPase was also approximately ten times higher than for the diaphragm enzyme. Ouabain-sensitive 86Rb uptake, an estimate of sodium pump activity, was inhibited by ouabain at a time when it produced its transient positive inotropic effect in diaphragm preparations. These results indicate that the lack of a distinct and steady positive inotropic effect of ouabain in diaphragm was due neither to the difference in the ouabain-Na+,K+-ATPase interaction between diaphragm and cardiac tissues nor the failure of sodium pump inhibition by ouabain in diaphragm.