Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), electrophoresis, immunoblotting, and immunohistochemistry were used to determine the molecular properties of cardiac myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoforms and the regions of the developing chicken heart in which they were expressed. Adult atria expressed three electrophoretically distinct MHCs that reacted specifically with mAbs F18, F59, or S58. During embryonic Days 2-4, when the atrial and ventricular chambers are forming, MHCs that reacted with mAbs F18, F59, or S58 were expressed in both the atria and ventricles. The atria continued to express MHCs that reacted with mAbs F18, F59, or S58 at all stages of development and in the adult. In the ventricles, expression of the MHCs reacting with these mAbs was found to be developmentally regulated. By embryonic Day 16, MHC(s) reacting with mAb F18 had disappeared from the developing ventricles, whereas MHCs reacting with S58 and F59 continued to be expressed throughout the ventricles. As development continued, MHC(s) reacting with S58 in the ventricle became restricted to expression in only the ventricular conducting system. MHC(s) reacting with F59 were expressed in both the ventricular myocytes and the ventricular conducting system throughout development and in the adult. Thus, in contrast to the embryonic chicken heart where at least three MHC isoforms were expressed in both the atria and ventricles, we found in the adult chicken heart that-at a minimum-three MHC isoforms were expressed in the atria, two MHC isoforms were expressed in the ventricular conducting system, and one MHC isoform in the ventricular myocardium. MHC isoform expression in the developing avian heart appears to be more complex than previously recognized.