While much is known about the beneficial effects of myocardial stress adaptation, relatively less information is available about the adaptive mechanisms. To explore the signaling pathways of stress adaptation, isolated working rat hearts were divided into three groups. Group I was adapted to stress by conventional technique of repeated ischemia and reperfusion consisting of 5 min of ischemia followed by 10 min of reperfusion, repeated four times. Group II was treated with 100 microM of genistein, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor, followed by preconditioning as described for group I. The third group, perfused with buffer only for 60 min, served as control. All hearts were subjected to 30 min of ischemia followed by 30 min of reperfusion. The results of our study demonstrated better postischemic myocardial functions in the preconditioned hearts as evidenced by increased aortic flow, coronary flow, developed pressure and lesser amount of tissue injury as evidenced by the decreased creatine kinase release. The preconditioning effects were associated with enhancement of phospholipase D activity in the heart. The preconditioning effect was almost abolished by the genistein treatment which also prevented the enhancement of phospholipase D activities. Additionally, preconditioning of the rat hearts stimulated protein kinase C, MAP kinase, and MAPKAP kinase 2 activities which were inhibited by genistein. The results identifies for the first time tyrosine kinase-phospholipase D as potential signaling pathway for ischemic preconditioning, and implicates the involvement of multiple protein kinases in myocardial adaptation to ischemia.