We investigated the effect of inspiratory resistive breathing (IRB) on the expression of the genes encoding fast and slow isoforms of myosin heavy chain (MyHC) in respiratory muscles. Eleven mongrel dogs were studied for baseline MyHC messenger RNA (mRNA) expression, seven of which were also used to study the effects of IRB. For this latter objective, awake and spontaneously breathing animals were subjected to 2 h of IRB (80 cm H(2)O/L/s) per day for four consecutive days. mRNA expression was assessed in the diaphragm, external intercostal muscle, and a limb muscle, using both slot- blot and in situ hybridizations with isoform-specific probes. A current semiquantitative scoring method (from 0 to 4) was used to quantify the in situ mRNA expression levels, and slot-blot data were analyzed with densitometry. Prior to IRB, slow- and fast-MyHC mRNA expression was moderate, similar, and homogeneous throughout the different regions of the diaphragm, with scores of 1.50 +/- 0.54 (mean +/- SD) for slow and 2.13 +/- 0.35 for fast mRNAs in the costal region of the diaphragm, and of 1.81 +/- 0.37 for slow and 2. 13 +/- 0.64 for fast mRNAs in the crural region of the diaphragm. Although expression of fast-MyHC mRNA remained unchanged after IRB, the relative expression of the mRNA for the slow isoform increased in costal (+30%), crural (+12%), and external intercostal (+27%) muscles. MyHC mRNA expression did not change in limb muscles. We conclude that breathing with a moderate inspiratory resistance for a short period induces the expression of slow MyHC in respiratory muscles.