Steady-state levels of the mitochondrial rRNAs, of mRNAs for mitochondrially and nuclear-encoded subunits of cytochrome c oxidase and for the beta subunit of ATP synthase were assessed by Northern blot hybridizations during the in vitro differentiation of human myoblasts. Transcript levels of the so-called liver-type form of subunit VIa of cytochrome c oxidase diminished during the course of differentiation, while transcription of the so-called heart-type form was induced. Transcripts for the liver-type form and for the heart-type form of subunit VIIa of cytochrome c oxidase were detected in all myogenic cultures; the levels of the heart-type form progressively increased during the course of differentiation. The levels of the other transcripts studied did not change substantially. The results suggest subunit switching of subunit VIa and co-expression of subunit VIIa isoforms during myogenesis. The differential changes in mRNA levels of the heart-type subunits VIa and VIIa and the differential changes in mRNA levels of the liver-type subunits VIa and VIIa demonstrate that different transcriptional regulation mechanisms are present for both heart-type genes as well as for both liver-type genes.