We established a specific radioimmunoassay for the ring structure of "iso-ANP" and detected iso-ANP[23-46]-like immunoreactivity (-LI) in the rat atrium (2.76 +/- 0.5 micrograms/g) and ventricle (13.9 +/- 5.7 ng/g). High performance-gel permeation chromatography revealed that iso-ANP[23-46]-LI in the rat heart was composed of two components with molecular weights of 10K and 5K. In reverse phase-high performance liquid chromatography, the retention times of these components were clearly different from that of synthetic iso-ANP. The 5K peptide was demonstrated to be present in the perfusate from isolated rat hearts and possessed binding ability to ANP receptors. This natriuretic peptide was, however, not detectable in other tissues including the brain. We conclude that the novel cardiac natriuretic peptide distinct from iso-ANP and ANP occurs in the rat heart and is secreted from the heart.