We studied the effects of urate, a peroxynitrite scavenger, on ischaemia- and peroxynitrite-induced preconditioning in rat isolated hearts. Isolated hearts perfused with Krebs-Henseleit solution were preconditioned either by 3 min of coronary artery occlusion or by peroxynitrite administration (1 muM) for 3 min, followed by 10 min of reperfusion and 30 min of coronary artery occlusion. Both ischaemia and peroxynitrite produced a marked reduction in arrhythmias. Urate (1 mM) added to the perfusate 10 min prior to ischaemic preconditioning or peroxynitrite infusion and maintained until coronary artery occlusion, markedly reversed the beneficial effects in the ischaemic and peroxynitrite-treated groups. Urate administration in the peroxynitrite-treated group increased the incidence of ventricular tachycardia from 57% (n = 11) to 100% (n = 6) and total ventricular fibrillation from 0 (n = 0) to 44% (n = 4). Similarly, urate augmented the incidence of ventricular tachycardia from 47% (n = 8) to 85% (n = 6) in the ischaemic preconditioning group. On its own, urate did not affect the severity of cardiac arrhythmias. Peroxynitrie infusion caused a marked increase in the effluent nitrate levels, from 0.05 +/- 0.1 muM (n = 5) to 0.4 +/- 0.2 muM (n = 6), and urate significantly decreased these levels to 0.08 +/- 0.03 muM (n = 9). These results suggest that peroxynitrite at low concentrations contributes to the beneficial effects of preconditioning on ischaemia-induced arrhythmias in rat isolated hearts. (C) 2001 Published by Elsevier Science B.V.