The influence of transient myocardial ischemia on recovery uridine incorporation into RNA and histone acetylation was investigated in an isolated perfused rat heart. Hemodynamically, hearts recovered from 15 min of ischemic arrest and were stable for at least 60 min of perfusion. Uridine incorporation was reduced (P less than 0.05) in ischemic hearts by 24 and 26% after 30 and 60 min of recovery perfusion. The incorporation of uridine into RNA from purified myocytes was decreased by 50% in the ischemic muscle cells. The covalent acetylation of total nucleohistones was diminished by 37%. Histone fractionation by urea polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis clearly indicated that histones H3 and H4 preferentially incorporated less acetate during ischemic recovery. However, histone acetylation for proteins H2A + H2B was not effected. These data suggest that a brief period of ischemia disrupts nucleotide incorporation during the recovery phase, with marked decrease associated with the muscle cell. The similar change in histone acetylation indicates a possible link between nucleoproteins and chromatin function during ischemic insult to the heart.