Résumé : We have assessed the presence of VIP/PHI/secretin receptors in heart by: (1) testing the ability of the corresponding peptides to activate adenylate cyclase in cardiac membranes from rat, dog, Cynomolgus monkey and man, and (2) examining the ability of the same peptides to exert inotropic and chronotropic effects on heart preparations from rat and Cynomolgus monkey in vitro. Based on their affinity for natural peptides and synthetic analogs, two types of VIP/PHI/secretin receptors were characterized: the relatively nonspecific "secretin/VIP receptor" of rat heart (that is "secretin-preferring" only in that secretin was more efficient than VIP in stimulating adenylate cyclase), and the "VIP/PHI-preferring" receptor of man, monkey and dog heart. Four physiopathological situations affecting secretin/VIP receptors in rat heart were explored: In male rats from the Okamoto strain and the Lyon strain, two strains presenting spontaneous hypertension, heart membranes exhibited a markedly decreased response of adenylate cyclase to secretin/VIP, with lesser alterations in the responses to isoproterenol and glucagon. This impairment developed in parallel with the occurrence of hypertension and was reproduced in normotensive rats submitted to chronic isoproterenol treatment (but not in Goldblatt hypertensive rats). These findings are consistent with a hyperactivity of norepinephrine pathways in spontaneously hypertensive rats, leading to a reduced number of cardiac post-junctional secretin/VIP receptors bound to adenylate cyclase. Heart membranes from genetically obese (fa/fa) Zucker rats also exhibited severely decreased responses to secretin/VIP with lesser alterations in the responses to glucagon and isoproterenol. These anomalies were specific for the heart, and developed in concomitance with obesity. The first anomaly could not be corrected by severe food restriction. Secretin stimulation of heart adenylate cyclase was also selectively altered in streptozotocin-diabetic rats. Thus, two types of diabetic cardiomyopathy were characterized by a severe local alteration of secretin/VIP receptors coupled to adenylate cyclase. Hypothyroidism, provoked in rat by thyroidectomy or propylthiouracil treatment, again induced a marked decrease in secretin-stimulated cardiac adenylate cyclase activity. In rat papillary muscle electrically stimulated in vitro, secretin exerted a positive inotropic effect. This effect was reduced in obese (fa/fa) Zucker rats. In rat right atrium, secretin also exerted a positive chronotropic effects.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)