This study was designed to quantitate transmural myocardial blood flow when coronary arterial inflow was limited to systole and during the subsequent reactive hyperemic response. Studies were performed in 10 awake dogs chronically prepared with electromagnetic flowmeters and pneumatic occluders on the left circumflex coronary artery. Intermittent coronary perfusion, confined to the interval of left ventricular systole or an equivalent period during diastole, was effected by an R wave triggered solenoid valve connected to the occluder. To measure regional myocardial blood flow we injected radionuclide labeled microspheres, 7-10 μm in diameter, into the left atrium. When arterial inflow was limited to systole, flow was normal in the subepicardial layers and was decreased as a linear function of tissue depth in the subendocardial layers. When coronary arterial inflow was limited to an equivalent interval in diastole, the transmural distribution of flow was uniform. When coronary flow was confined to systole for more than 20 seconds, the blood flow debt incurred elicited a reactive hyperemia similar to that following a total occlusion of equivalent blood flow debt. However, regional myocardial blood flow during the peak of reactive hyperemia following systolic perfusion was preferentially directed to the subendocardium, where underperfusion was most marked, whereas reactive hyperemia flow following a total occlusion of equivalent blood flow debt was distributed more evenly across the left ventricular wall. Thus, when coronary inflow was limited to systole, ventricular contraction produced a transmural gradient in myocardial blood flow resulting in subendocardial underperfusion.