Diabetic hearts are suggested to exhibit either increased or lower sensitivity to ischemia. Detrimental effects of prolonged ischemia can be attenuated by preconditioning, however, relatively little is known about its effects in the diseased myocardium. This study was designed to test the susceptibility to ischemia-induced arrhythmias and the effect of preconditioning in the diabetic heart. Rats were made diabetic with streptozotocin (45 mg/kg, i.v.). After 1 week, isolated Langendorff-perfused hearts were subjected to 30 min occlusion of LAD coronary artery without or with preceding preconditioning induced by one cycle of 5 min ischemia and 10 min reperfusion. Glycogen and lactate contents were estimated in the preconditioned and non-preconditioned hearts before and after ischemia. Diabetic hearts were more resistant to ischemia-induced arrhythmias: incidence of ventricular tachycardia (VT) decreased to 42% and only transient ventricular fibrillation (VF) occurred in 17% of the hearts as compared to the non-diabetic controls (VT 100% and VF 70% including sustained VF 36%; p < 0.05). Preconditioning effectively suppressed the incidence and severity of arrhythmias (VT 33%, VF 0%) in the normal hearts. However, this intervention did not confer any additional protection in the diabetic hearts. Despite higher glycogen content in the diabetic myocardium and greater glycogenolysis during ischemia, production of lactate in these hearts was significantly lower than in the controls. Preconditioning caused a substantial decrease in the accumulation of lactate in the normal hearts, whereby in the diabetic hearts, this intervention did not cause any further reduction in the level of lactate. In conclusion, diabetic rat hearts exhibit lower susceptibility to ischemic injury and show no additional response to preconditioning. Reduced production of glycolytic metabolites during ischemia can account for the enhanced resistance of diabetic hearts to ischemia as well as for the lack of further protection by preconditioning.