The study was designed to characterize the relationship between the metabolise content of human cardiac muscle and in vivo cardiac function. ATP, total adenine nucleotides, and NAD were quantified in human myocardial biopsies using high performance liquid chromatography. Right ventricular endomyocardial biopsies were obtained from 43 patients with dilated cardiomyopathy, 6 with restrictive cardiomyopathy, 10 with normal systolic and diastolic function, and from 24 cold preserved human donor hearts. Transmural samples of failing right and left ventricular free walls were obtained during cardiac transplantation surgery in 8 patients. ATP, total adenine nucleotides, and NAD were similar in the cold-preserved donor hearts and in right ventricular endomyocardial biopsies from the 10 individuals with normal systolic and diastolic function. In contrast, these values were significantly depressed in tissue samples from patients with dilated or restrictive cardiomyopathy. There was a significant correlation between ATP and pulmonary capillary wedge pressures but not ejection fractions. Declines in the sizes of myocardial ATP, adenine nucleotide, and pyridine nucleotide pools in the human myocardium are associated primarily with diastolic but not systolic dysfunction.