The effects of liquid fluorocarbons as bathing media were determined by use of in vitro neuromuscular preparations. Rat hemidiaphragms were bathed in either oxygenated fluorocarbon (FC) emulsion or standard oxygenated Krebs solution. Contractile force in response to simple supramaximal nerve stimuli as well as to high frequency stimulation was greater, while twitch:tetanus ratio was smaller in FC emulsion. With such medium, post-tetanic potentiation of contraction was also more consistently observed. Indirectly stimulated diaphragms survived longer in FC emulsion. After cessation of oxygenation, oxygen tension (rhoO(2)) of the medium declined more rapidly with Krebs than with FC emulsion; rhoO(2) directly correlated with force of contraction. Similarly, in the chick biventer cervicis preparation, FC emulsion enhanced nerve-stimulated force of contraction; returning the preparation to standard Krebs solution reversed this phenomenon. Dose-resonse curves of muscle contraction in response to acetycholine and KCl administration were shifted upward during FC emulsion superfusion. Frequency of miniature endplate potentials was lower in FC emulsion than that observed in Krebs solution, measured from the same cell of the rat diaphragm. Resting membrane potentials were also greater in muscle cells sampled from FC emulsion-bathed preparations. These data suggest that FC emulsion is superior to standard Krebs solution as a bathing medium for in vitro neuromuscular preparations by virtue of the high solubility of oxygen in it.