The effects of the second generation sulfonylurea, glyburide, on the pyruvate dehydrogenase multienzyme complex (PDC) of rat myocardial tissue were examined using rat ventricular slices and isolated mitochondria. Therapeutic concentrations (10(-7) to 10(-6)M) of glyburide produced a 30% increase in the decarboxylation of [1(-14)C] pyruvate by the PDC of ventricular tissue. Addition of glyburide to intact rat heart mitochondria stimulated activity of the PDC in a time- and concentration-dependent manner. Half-maximal stimulation of the enzyme occurred with 6 X 10(-5)M glyburide and maximal activation of the enzyme was achieved with 1 X 10(-4)M glyburide. At the height of stimulation, PDC activities were 6-fold greater than those observed under control conditions with succinate alone. When mitochondria were disrupted by sonication or freeze-thawing, glyburide produced no stimulation of pyruvate decarboxylation. We conclude that glyburide directly stimulates the decarboxylation of pyruvate by the PDC of the myocardium. Furthermore, the presence of intact mitochondria is necessary for the stimulatory action of glyburide on the PDC.