To quantify reactive elements of the coronary circulation, we have characterized in vivo diastolic coronary input impedance by introducing sinusoidal pressure oscillations of constant amplitude and varying frequency at constant mean pressure levels during prolonged diastoles in heart-blocked dogs anesthetized with pentobarbital. The behavior of coronary input impedance is similar to that observed in other peripheral vascular beds and is a function of both mean distending pressure and vasomotor tone. The behavior of impedance modulus and phase at each pressure level could be described by a lumped resistive-capacitive (RC) parallel model over a frequency range of 1-5 Hz. At higher frequencies the phase angle response could be characterized by adding a Voigt viscoelastic element to the original RC model. Calculated coronary capacitances for both models were similar in magnitude and varied inversely with mean coronary distending pressure. Values for the RC and RC viscoelastic model in the maximally dilated coronary bed were 14.1 and 21.6 X 10(-3) ml X mmHg X 100 g-1 at 30 mmHg and 2.65 and 2.70 X 10(-3) ml X mmHg-1 X 100 g-1 at 110 mmHg. With vasomotor tone intact, calculated coronary capacitance at each pressure level was reduced by a factor of two. These results indicate that an RC parallel model with pressure- and vasomotor tone-dependent capacitance adequately describes diastolic coronary input impedance at frequencies encountered during ordinary diastoles. The addition of a viscoelastic element provides adequate fits up to frequencies of 10 Hz.