Myocardial iron deficiency complicates chronic intrauterine hypoxemia during diabetic pregnancies. To understand the effect of both conditions during fetal life on intracardiac iron prioritization, we measured heart myoglobin, cytochrome c, and elemental iron concentrations in six iron-deficient, hypoxic, five iron-sufficient, hypoxic, six iron-deficient, normoxic, and six iron-sufficient, normoxic newborn guinea pigs. The iron-deficient, hypoxic group had lower heart iron (p = 0.03) but higher myoglobin concentration (p < 0.0001) when compared with the iron-sufficient, normoxic group. The percentage of iron incorporated into myoglobin was higher than control in the iron-deficient, hypoxic group (23.2+/-7.2% vs. 5.2+/-0.8%; p < 0.001) and increased as total heart iron decreased (r = 0.97; p < 0.001). In contrast, heart cytochrome c concentration was lower than control in the iron-deficient, hypoxic group (p = 0.01), with equal percentages of heart iron incorporated into cytochrome c. This intracellular prioritization of myocardial iron to myoglobin and away from cytochrome c following combined fetal hypoxemia and iron deficiency may represent an adaptive mechanism to preserve myocardial tissue oxygenation, although at the expense of oxidative phosphorylative capability.