The application of subcellular fractionation protocols developed in soft tissues to fibrous organs such as the heart is unsuitable given the substantial differences in subcellular structure these tissues exhibit. The purpose of this study was to develop a simple method for the separation of sarcolemma and endosomes from isolated Langendorff-perfused rat hearts. Hearts were, homogenized with either an Ultra-Turrax homogenizer or a hand-held glass tissue grinder. Quantitative immunoblots assessed the enrichment of the sarcolemmal proteins caveolin 3 and the sodium potassium ATPase and the endosomal proteins rab4 and GLUT4 in different membrane fractions. Application of homogenates to sucrose and Percoll density gradients failed to resolve membranes differentially enriched in sarcolemmal or endosomal marker proteins, indicating little difference in density between the sarcolemma and endosomes. However, successive spins of homogenates from a handheld glass tissue grinder successfully separated the endosomes from the sarcolemma, indicating differences in masses between the two membrane fractions. Approximately 70% of total caveolin 3 and sodium potassium ATPase immunoreactivity was in membrane pellets up to 20,000g and approximately 85% of rab4 and GLUT4 in pellets from 20,000-100,000g. In addition, 86% of ouabain-sensitive ATPase activity (sodium potassium ATPase activity) was in membrane pellets up to 20,000g. Therefore, sarcolemmal membranes were pelleted up to 20,000g, and endosomal membranes between 20,000 and 100,000g. Regional ischemia (40 min) followed by reperfusion (60 min) caused the translocation of GLUT4 (but not rab4) from the endosomal membranes to the sarcolemma in the area of the heart subjected to ischemia. (C) 2001 Academic Press.