High levels of fatty acids decrease the extent of mechanical recovery of hearts reperfused following a transient period of severe ischemia. Glucose oxidation rates during reperfusion are low under these conditions, which can result in a decreased recovery of mechanical function. Stimulation of glucose oxidation with the carnitine palmitoyl transferase I inhibitor, Etomoxir, or by directly stimulating pyruvate dehydrogenase activity with dichloroacetate (DCA) results in an improvement in mechanical function during reperfusion of previously ischemic hearts. Addition of DCA (1 mM) to hearts perfused with 11 mM glucose and 1.2 mM palmitate results in an increase in contribution of glucose oxidation to overall ATP production from 6 to 23%, with a parallel decrease in that of fatty acid oxidation from 90 to 69%. In aerobic hearts, endogenous myocardial triglycerides are an important source of fatty acids for beta-oxidation. Using hearts in which the myocardial triglycerides were pre-labeled, the contribution of both endogenous and exogenous fatty acid oxidation to myocardial ATP production was determined in hearts perfused with 11 mM glucose, 1.2 mM palmitate and 500 microU/ml insulin. In hearts reperfused following a 30 min period of global no flow ischemia, 91.9% of ATP production was derived from endogenous and exogenous fatty acid oxidation, compared to 87.7% in aerobic hearts. This demonstrates that fatty acid oxidation quickly recovers following a transient period of severe ischemia. Furthermore, therapy aimed at overcoming fatty acid inhibition of glucose oxidation during reperfusion of ischemic hearts appears to be beneficial to recovery of mechanical function.