Isolated cat hearts were perfused with blood-free Krebs-Henseleit solution for 165 min. Ischemia was induced by reducing perfusion to 0.02 ml/min/g wet heart weight for 2 h followed by reperfusion at controls flows for 30 min. Hearts perfused with the thromboxane synthetase inhibitor OKY-1581 at concentrations of 5 X 10(-6) M were spared from the increases in circulating thromboxane B2 occurring in untreated ischemic hearts. After reperfusion, cardiac contractile force increased to a higher level in OKY-1581 treated hearts. This was associated with a lower coronary vascular resistance than in untreated ischemic hearts. OKY-1581 treated ischemic hearts exhibited lower perfusate and higher myocardial creatine kinase (CK) activity than untreated ischemic hearts, indicative of preservation of cellular integrity. Also, OKY-1581 treated ischemic hearts showed improved lysosomal stability as evidenced by a lower tissue percent free cathepsin D activity than untreated ischemic hearts. These results are consistent with a significant role of thromboxanes in the propagation of myocardial cellular damage during ischemia.