The formation of fast and slow myotubes was investigated in embryonic chick muscle during primary and secondary myogenesis by immunocytochemistry for myosin heavy chain and Ca2(+)-ATPase. When antibodies to fast or slow isoforms of these two molecules were used to visualize myotubes in the posterior iliotibialis and iliofibularis muscles, one of the isoforms was observed in all primary and secondary myotubes until very late in development. In the case of myosin, the fast antibody stained virtually all myotubes until after stage 40, when fast myosin expression was lost in the slow myotubes of the iliofibularis. In the case of Ca2(+)-ATPase, the slow antibody also stained all myotubes until after stage 40, when staining was lost in secondary myotubes and in the fast primary myotubes of the posterior iliotibialis and the fast region of the iliofibularis. In contrast, the antibodies against slow muscle myosin heavy chain and fast muscle Ca2(+)-ATPase stained mutually exclusive populations of myotubes at all developmental stages investigated. During primary myogenesis, fast Ca2(+)-ATPase staining was restricted to the primary myotubes of the posterior iliotibialis and the fast region of the iliofibularis, whereas slow myosin heavy chain staining was confined to all of the primary myotubes of the slow region of the iliofibularis. During secondary myogenesis, the fast Ca2(+)-ATPase antibody stained nearly all secondary myotubes, while primaries in the slow region of the iliofibularis remained negative. Thus, in the slow region of the iliofibularis muscle, these two antibodies could be used in combination to distinguish primary and secondary myotubes. EM analysis of staining with the fast Ca2(+)-ATPase antibody confirmed that it recognizes only secondary myotubes in this region. This study establishes that antibodies to slow myosin heavy chain and fast Ca2(+)-ATPase are suitable markers for selective labeling of primary and secondary myotubes in the iliofibularis; these markers are used in the following article to describe and quantify the effects that chronic blockade of neuromuscular activity or denervation has on these populations of myotubes.