Xenotransplantation has been complicated by hyperacute rejection reactions, which are supposedly triggered by preformed natural antibodies (PNAb) of the recipient organism, whereas the role of antibodies specifically induced by previous antigen contact (IAb) is less clear. Primary cultures of spontaneously beating neonatal rat cardiomyocytes were used as a model of the heart to elaborate the effects of both PNAb and IAb from xenogeneic species and to investigate into their mechanisms of action. An experimental setup allowing for rapid medium exchange under continuous observation was employed. Sera containing PNAb reproducibly bring about a stereotype pattern of altered contractility including an initial increase in beating frequency followed by a temporary cessation of beating within the first minutes after administration. After recovery of spontaneous contractions, the cells within the monolayer exhibited a dissociation of the synchronicity of the beating persisting for several hours. The temporary pause in beating was prevented by a very high extracellular calcium concentration, but not by extracellular electrical stimulation sufficient to trigger contractions in control cells. Electrophysiological measurements carried out in adult ventricular guinea pig heart muscle cells under the same experimental conditions revealed an increase of the excitation threshold of the cells after application of sera containing PNAb due to an enhanced input resistance. These results indicate that the effect of PNAb is the consequence rather of a generally reduced excitability of the cell than of the inhibition of a singular ionic conductance. After specific absorption of PNAb directed against rat antigens beating of neonatal rate cardiomyocytes ensued without interruption. Sera specimens devoid of complement produced similar effects on contractility, although the duration of the standstill period was significantly shorter. The increase in input resistance visualized in guinea pig myocytes was absent after removing PNAb against guinea pig antigens but not after absorbing PNAb directed against rat epitopes. Signs of a permanent cytotoxicity after the administration of PNAb were lacking in all experiments. IAb against rat heart tissue raised in rabbits stopped the contractions of neonatal rat cardiomyocytes within 30 min after administration irreversibly and lead concentration-dependently to a destruction of the cells.