The arrhythmogenic actions of endothelin peptides were studied in isolated perfused hearts from guinea pigs and rats. Digoxin-induced ectopic ventricular complexes were partially antagonized by phosphoramidon, an endothelin-converting enzyme inhibitor. On the contrary, these rhythm disturbances were potentiated by big endothelin-1 in isolated perfused whole hearts from guinea pigs. Endothelin-1, when infused through the coronary circulation at a concentration of 10(-10) mol/l, produced an increase in coronary perfusion pressure without altering the heart rate and contractility in the isolated perfused hearts of rats. However, ventricular ectopic complexes occurred when the rise in coronary perfusion pressure reached the peak value. BQ 485, an endothelin-A receptor antagonist, at a concentration of 10(-6) mol/l, completely blocked the vasoconstrictor and arrhythmogenic effects of endothelin-1. In BQ 485-pretreated rat hearts, endothelin-1 produced a fall in coronary perfusion pressure and a slight positive inotropic response which could be blocked by N-G-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester, a nitric oxide synthase inhibitor. BQ 485 at the same concentration also caused a significant reduction in the duration but not the onset of ventricular ectopic complexes in the guinea pig isolated perfused heart induced by digoxin. These results were taken as evidence of the arrhythmogenic action of endothelin peptides and their possible participation in the ventricular dysrhythmia induced by digoxin.