The responses of Limulus cardiac neuromuscular junctions and cardiac muscle cells to four endogenous amines were determined in order to identify the cellular targets underlying amine modulation of heartbeat amplitude. The amines increased the amplitude of the Limulus heartbeat, with dopamine (DA) being more potent than octopamine, epinephrine or norepinephrine. The effect of DA on heartbeat amplitude was not blocked by phentolamine. DA enhanced the contractility of deganglionated heart muscle, with time course and dose-dependence similar to its effect on the intact heart. The amines also enhanced neuromuscular transmission, with time course and dose-dependence similar to their effects upon the intact heart. The amplitude of unitary excitatory junction potentials (EJPs) and frequency of miniature excitatory junction potentials (mEJPs) were increased by DA, while mEJP amplitude was unchanged. Thus DA, and probably the other amines, had a presynaptic effect. Combined actions upon cardiac muscle and cardiac neuromuscular transmission account for the ability of these amines to increase the amplitude of the Limulus heartbeat.