The effects of glutamate on anginal threshold, cardiac metabolism and hemodynamics were studied in 11 patients with stable angina pectoris, positive stress test results, and pacing-induced myocardial lactate release due to coronary artery disease (CAD) (n = 9) or syndrome X (n = 2). Data were obtained before, during and after 2 identical periods of coronary sinus pacing, the second being preceded by an intravenous injection of monosodium glutamate 1.2 (n = 7) or 2.5 (n = 4) mg/kg body weight. After glutamate administration, pacing time to onset of angina increased from mean +/- standard deviation 103 +/- 53 to 166 +/- 71 seconds (p less than 0.01) and ST-segment depression after pacing decreased from 2.3 +/- 1.0 to 1.6 +/- 1.1 mm (p less than 0.01). Arterial glutamate concentration increased 60% (p less than 0.01) after the low dose and 150% (p less than 0.01) after the high dose of glutamate. Regardless of dose, myocardial glutamate uptake increased by 25% (p less than 0.01). Pacing-induced cardiac release of lactate diminished 50% (p less than 0.05), whereas the releases of xanthine and hypoxanthine were unchanged by glutamate. Arterial free fatty acids decreased 20% (p less than 0.01). Circulating levels and cardiac exchanges of alanine, glucose and citrate were unchanged. Glutamate did not influence heart rate, arterial blood pressure, coronary blood flow, coronary vascular resistance or myocardial oxygen consumption. One patient complained of short-lasting burning sensations after receiving the high glutamate dose. In conclusion, augmented provision of glutamate enhances pacing tolerance in stable angina, presumably by a metabolic improvement of cardiac energy production during ischemia.