The effects of various calcium sensitizers on myosin-actin crossbridge kinetics were evaluated in intact, paced guinea-pig papillary muscle by analysing the velocity of the development of isometric tension (dT/dt) in detail. The effect on association (the whole sequence of events from troponin onward) and dissociation rates of crossbridges was estimated from the rising phase and from the early decay phase of the normalized dT/dt curve. Levosimendan, a calcium sensitizer acting through troponin C, accelerated the proportional association rate and decelerated the dissociation rate of crossbridges. The effect of levosimendan on crossbridge kinetics occurred before the peak twitch tension was achieved. Thus, the compound did not change the actual relaxation phase of twitch tension. Since the effect on the association was more pronounced than on the dissociation of crossbridges, levosimendan shifted the entire twitch tension curve to the left. Based on the dissociation rate analysis levosimendan seems to act preferentially as a calcium sensitizer at low concentrations. At high concentrations the phosphodiesterase III (PDE III) inhibitory properties of levosimendan modulated its effect on the early relaxation processes. In contrast, PDE III inhibition is probably the primary mechanism of action for MCI-154. Pimobendan, and EMD 53998 at low concentrations, whereas their direct effects on crossbridge kinetics contributed to the positive inotropic action at high concentrations. The calcium sensitizing mechanisms of these compounds seemed to be based almost exclusively on the decelerating effect on dissociation of crossbridges.