Troponin T is a structurally bound protein found in striated muscle cells. We tested concentrations of its cardiac-specific isotype in peripheral venous blood samples serially drawn from 72 patients with confirmed myocardial infarction. Fifty-nine patients received thrombolytic treatment with intravenous streptokinase, urokinase, or recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator; because of contraindications, the remaining 13 patients did not. Concentrations of troponin T in plasma, measured by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, started increasing within a few hours after the onset of symptoms (median, 4 h; range, 1-10 h). The sensitivity of troponin T for detecting myocardial infarction was 100% from 10 to 120 h after the onset of symptoms; sensitivity on the seventh day after admission was 84%. Concentrations were increased for up to three weeks in some patients with late or high peak values. Successful reperfusion in Q-wave infarction obviously influences the release of troponin T into plasma, with all such cases showing peak values less than or equal to 26 h (median, 14 h) after the onset of symptoms. Troponin T concentrations in these patients returned to within the reference interval more rapidly than in nonreperfused subjects. In the 13 patients without fibrinolytic therapy, troponin T tended to peak approximately 48 h (median) after the onset of chest pain. Troponin T concentrations in patients for whom thrombolysis was unsuccessful resembled those in patients without fibrinolytic therapy. The specificity of the assay was 96% as tested in samples of 96 emergency-room patients. The reference interval (less than 0.5 micrograms/L) was established from samples of 100 healthy blood donors. Troponin T measurements are a specific and sensitive method for the early and late diagnosis of acute myocardial infarction and could, therefore, provide a new criterion in laboratory diagnosis of its occurrence.