Whereas inhibition of the Na(+)/H(+) exchanger (NHE) has been demonstrated to reduce myocardial infarct size in response to ischemia-reperfusion injury, the ability of NHE inhibition to preserve endothelial cell function has not been examined. This study examined whether NHE inhibition could preserve endothelial cell function after 90 min of regional ischemia and 180 min of reperfusion and compared this inhibition with ischemic preconditioning (IPC). In a canine model either IPC, produced by one 5-min coronary artery occlusion (1 x 5'), or the specific NHE-1 inhibitor eniporide (EMD-96785, 3.0 mg/kg) was administered 15 min before a 90-min coronary artery occlusion followed by 3 h of reperfusion. Infarct size (IS) was determined by 2,3,5-triphenyl tetrazolium chloride staining and expressed as a percentage of the area-at-risk (IS/AAR). Endothelial cell function was assessed by measurement of coronary blood flow in response to intracoronary acetylcholine infusion at the end of reperfusion. Whereas neither control nor IPC-treated animals exhibited a significant reduction in IS/AAR or preservation of endothelial cell function, animals treated with the NHE inhibitor eniporide showed a marked reduction in IS/AAR and a significantly preserved endothelial cell function (P < 0.05). Thus NHE-1 inhibition is more efficacious than IPC at reducing IS/AAR and at preserving endothelial cell function in dogs.