Phosphorus NMR spectroscopy is an important technique for the investigation of metabolism in tissues and intact organisms (including man). However, quantitation of the signals from an NMR experiment is difficult because it is not known from which regions of a cell metabolites are detected. It is generally believed that only metabolites free in the cytosol are observed. In this study a comparison of concentration measurements obtained by NMR and after freeze extraction was made in the normoxic and ischemic rat heart. The influence of ischemia was examined because of its potential effect on the level of phosphate metabolites in various compartments. The same fraction of ATP always appears visible to NMR, whereas inorganic phosphate is largely NMR invisible until after a period of ischemia and the phosphomonoesters are only partially observed early in ischemia.