The effects of 4-aminopyridine (4AP), and pH changes have been examined on tension responses and cyclic nucleotide levels in rabbit isolated right ventricular papillary muscles. 4AP augmented papillary muscle contractions in a concentration-dependent manner. However, this positive inotropic action was largely due to an increase in extracellular pH produced by 4AP, rather than an intrinsic activity of the drug. Increases in extracellular pH (from 5 to 9) produced graded and reproducible increases in contractile force which were not blocked by propranolol (1 ± 10−7M) but were inhibited by verapamil in a concentration-dependent manner. The positive inotropic effects of Ca2+ were enhanced and depressed by alkaline and acidic pH, respectively. Neither 4AP nor alkaline pH significantly changed cyclic AMP concentration in rabbit papillary muscles. The cyclic GMP content, however, was increased by 4AP only and this effect was blocked by atropine. The results suggest that the positive inotropic effect associated with a rise in pH from neutrality may be due to facilitation of translocation of membrane Ca2+ and/or to increase the release of Ca2+ from sources within the cell. They also illustrate that a major component of the inotropic effect of 4AP is a result of an increase in extracellular pH.