We studied the development of tolerance to isosorbide dinitrate in 12 patients with chronic stable angina pectoris. The effect of 30 mg of isosorbide dinitrate on treadmill exercise performance was assessed before and at one, three, and five hours after a single dose. As compared with placebo, the drug increased treadmill walking time until the onset of angina and until the development of moderate angina over the five-hour observation period (P less than 0.05). The patients then received 30 mg of isosorbide dinitrate twice, three times, and four times daily for a period of one week, and exercise performance was assessed before and at one, three, and five hours after the final morning dose. During sustained treatment two and three times daily, treadmill walking time was longer throughout the five-hour testing period than during the placebo phase (P less than 0.05). In contrast, during treatment four times daily, treadmill walking time was prolonged at one hour (P less than 0.05) but not at three and five hours after the last dose. We conclude that tolerance to the clinical effects of isosorbide dinitrate develops with a sustained dosage of 30 mg four times daily, but not when the drug is given two or three times daily.