We used a modification of the isolated perfused rat heart, in which coronary effluent and interstitial transudate were separately collected, to investigate the uptake and clearance of exogenous renin, angiotensinogen, and angiotensin I (Ang I) as well as the cardiac production of Ang I. The levels of these compounds in interstitial transudate were considered to be representative of the levels in the cardiac interstitial fluid. During perfusion with renin or angiotensinogen, the steady-state levels (mean +/- SD) in interstitial transudate were 64 +/- 34% (P < .05 for difference from the arterial level, n = 8) and 108 +/- 42% (n = 6) of the arterial level, respectively; the levels in coronary effluent were not significantly different from those in interstitial transudate. Ang I was not detectable in interstitial transudate during perfusion with Tyrode's buffer or angiotensinogen. It was very low in interstitial transudate during perfusion with renin and rose to much higher levels during combined renin and angiotensinogen perfusion. The total production rate of Ang I present in interstitial fluid could be largely explained by the renin-angiotensinogen reaction in the fluid phase of the interstitial compartment. In contrast, the total production rate of Ang I present in coronary effluent and the net ejection rate of Ang I via coronary effluent were, respectively, 4.6 +/- 2.2 and 2.8 +/- 1.3 (P < .01 and P < .05 for difference from 1.0, n = 6) times higher than could be explained by Ang I formation in the fluid phase of the intravascular compartment. Ang I from the interstitial fluid contributed little to the Ang I in the intravascular fluid and vice versa. These data reveal two tissue sites of Ang I production, ie, the interstitial fluid and a site closer to the blood compartment, possibly vascular surface-bound renin. There was no evidence that the release of locally produced Ang I into coronary effluent and interstitial transudate occurred independently of blood-derived renin or angiotensinogen.