Cardiac natriuretic peptides, especially amino terminal pro-Brain Natriuretic Peptide (NT-proBNP), are emerging as powerful circulating markers of cardiac function. However, the in vivo secretion and elimination (t1/2) of these peptides during acute volume overload have not been studied. We present the first report of the secretion and elimination of cardiac natriuretic peptides, based on deconvolution analysis of endogenous ovine plasma levels measured by specific radioimmunoassay. Four normal, conscious sheep underwent rapid right ventricular pacing (225 bpm) for 1 hour to stimulate acute cardiac natriuretic peptide release. Plasma samples and right atrial pressure measurements were taken at regular intervals 30 minutes before, during, and 4 hours after pacing. Baseline right atrial pressure significantly increased (P=0.02) during the 1 hour of pacing in association with a prompt increase in plasma BNP (P=0.03), atrial natriuretic peptide (P=0.01), and NT-proBNP (P=0.02). Deconvolution analysis showed that the t1/2 of NT-proBNP (69.6+/-10.8 minutes) was 15-fold longer than BNP (4.8+/-1. 0 minutes). Despite sustained increases in atrial pressure, cardiac secretion of natriuretic peptides (particularly atrial natriuretic peptide) fell during the pacing period, suggesting a finite source of peptide for secretion. Size-exclusion high-performance liquid chromatography revealed NT-proBNP to be a single immunoreactive peak, whereas BNP comprised at least 2 immunoreactive forms. These findings, especially the prompt secretion of BNP and the prolonged t1/2 of NT-proBNP, clarify the metabolism of BNP forms and help to explain the diagnostic value of NT-proBNP measurement as a sensitive marker of ventricular function.