Diastolic mitral valve 'locking', defined as sustained diastolic closure of the mitral valve after atrial systole, was investigated by simultaneous hemodynamic and echocardiographic recordings during a protocol of programmed pacing in six dogs with surgically induced atrioventricular block. Atrial extrasystoles were introduced at progressively increasing coupling intervals during programmed prolonged pauses in ventricular pacing. As the coupling interval of the atrial extrasystole was increased, both the mitral reopening time (MRT) and the calculated left ventricular volume (LVV) at the end of the MRT increased proportionally. These interrelations could be best expressed by a general logarithmic function of the form y = a + b ln (x), where x = the coupling interval of the atrial extrasystole and y = the MRT or the LVV. Correlations between the measured data and the predicted data were excellent (r ≥ 0.95). In each dog, a specific LVV had to be attained to allow a diastolic 'locking' of the mitral valve. Atrial standstill and atrial fibrillation were also induced in each dog to study the relative role of atrial systole in locking of the mitral valve. During either atrial standstill or atrial fibrillation, the mitral valve closed transiently, but did not lock, despite the accumulation of a LVV larger than the LVV necessary to lock the valve during sinus rhythm. Thus, diastolic locking of the mitral valve has several determinants, including the presence of active atrial systole and the accumulation of a sufficient intraventricular volume.