High-resolution 23Na and 39K nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectra of perfused, beating rat hearts have been obtained in the absence and presence of the downfield shift reagent Dy(TTHA)3- in the perfusing medium. Evidence indicates that Dy(TTHA)3- enters essentially all extracellular spaces but does not enter intracellular spaces. It can thus be used to discriminate the resonances of the ions in these spaces. Experiments supporting this conclusion include interventions that inhibit the Na+/K+ pump such as the inclusion of ouabain in and the exclusion of K+ from the perfusing medium. In each of these experiments, a peak corresponding to intracellular sodium increased in intensity. In the latter experiment, the increase was reversed when the concentration of K+ in the perfusing medium was returned to normal. When the concentration of Ca2+ in the perfusing medium was also returned to normal, the previously quiescent heart resumed beating. In the beating heart where the Na+/K+ pump was not inhibited, the intensity of the intracellular Na+ resonance was less than 20% of that expected. Although the data are more sparse, the NMR visibility of the intracellular K+ signal appears to be no more than 20%.
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