The presence of a 280,000 M(r) isoform of acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC-280) in the cardiac myocyte suggests that heart muscle is capable of malonyl-CoA synthesis. Cellular factors which regulate activity of ACC-280 are unknown. We have employed a neonatal rat cardiac myocyte culture (where the majority of ACC is present as ACC-280) to examine the effects of hypoxia and decreased cellular ATP on the activity of ACC in the cells. The myocyte culture has the following advantages over similar studies in the intact rat heart: the presence of a pure population of myocytes and the ability to measure cytosolic ACC free from contamination by mitochondrial carboxylases. ACC activity in cultured cardiac myocytes is completely dependent on the presence of citrate (A0.5=3.8 mM). Under control conditions, the cytosolic citrate concentration in situ is determined to be less than 1 mM. With 5 h of hypoxia, cytosolic ATP decreases from 9.85 +/- 0.23 to 2.83 +/- 0.25 mM and cytosolic AMP increases from undetectable levels to 40 +/- 0.4 microM. With hypoxia, a significant portion of the total ACC activity is now expressed in the absence of citrate and the amount of activity which is stimulated by 10 mM citrate is significantly less (1,268 +/- 0.106 nmol/4 x 10(5) cells) than is seen under control conditions (3.042 +/- 0.048). There are no significant changes in the total amount of cellular protein on the plates after 5 h of hypoxia. Consistent with net ACC activation in hypoxia, malonyl-CoA levels increase in the cells by 7 h of hypoxia. Decreased radioactive phosphate content of immunopurified ACC-280 after 5 h of hypoxia is consistent with net dephosphorylation of ACC-280 and increased citrate-independent activity.