Induction of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) contributes to the mechanism of heart protection against ischemia-reperfusion damage. We analyzed the effects of hypoxia and hyperoxia on eNOS expression in isolated working rat hearts after ischemia-reperfusion damage. Adult male Wistar rats were submitted to chronic hypoxia (2 weeks) and hyperoxia (72 h). The hearts were submitted to 15 min of ischemia and reperfused for 60 min, then we evaluated hemodynamic parameters and creatine phosphokinase (CPK) release. eNOS expression was estimated by RT-PCR; enzyme localization was evaluated by immunohistochemistry and the eNOS protein levels were detected by Western blot. All hemodynamic parameters in hypoxic conditions were better with respect to other groups. The CPK release was lower in hypoxic (P<0.01) than in normoxic and hyperoxic conditions. The eNOS deposition was significantly higher in the hypoxic group versus the normoxic or hyperoxic groups. The eNOS protein and mRNA levels were increased by hypoxia versus both other groups. Chronic hypoxic exposure may decrease injury and increase eNOS protein and mRNA levels in heart subjected to ischemia-reperfusion.