The effect of vascular endothelium, endocardium, and coronary endothelium on vascular tone and myocardial contraction-relaxation sequence in heart failure is discussed. Vascular endothelium affects underlying vascular smooth muscle through paracrine secretion of relaxing and constricting factors. In heart failure, systemic vasoconstriction results not only from neuroendocrine activation, but also from disturbed local endothelial control of vascular tone because of impaired endothelial-dependent vasodilation and because of increased plasma concentration of endothelin. Experimental evidence obtained in isolated cardiac muscle strips established the influence of endocardial endothelium on the duration of myocardial contraction and on the onset of myocardial relaxation. By analogy to vascular endothelium, both diffusible agents that abbreviate (endothelial-derived relaxation factor-like substance) and those that prolong (endocardin) myocardial contraction have been shown to be released from the endocardium. Similar agents are released from the coronary endothelium and, because of the close proximity of capillaries and myocytes, could exert a major effect on myocardial performance. Endothelial dysfunction and concomitant lack of release of myocardial relaxant factors could explain left ventricular relaxation abnormalities observed in the cardiac allograft or in arterial hypertension. Since endothelial-derived relaxation factor or nitric oxide mediates the coronary reactive hyperemic response, a negative inotropic action of nitric oxide could contribute to left ventricular failure when left ventricular wall stress is elevated, as occurs after myocardial infarction in the noninfarcted zone and during left ventricular volume or pressure overload in the absence of adequate hypertrophy.