Myosin heavy chain (MyHC) isoforms show a striking diversity of expression patterns during mammalian development. Using a set of monoclonal antibodies that recognize different epitopes on myosin heavy chain isoforms we show that there exist in human and rat skeletal muscle at least three isoforms of slow twitch myosin heavy chain. To facilitate a comparison of our results to others obtained using different antibodies or species, we have identified cDNAs encoding the epitopes recognized by the three slow antibodies. Using these reagents, we show that the onset of expression of three slow MyHC isoforms is temporally distinct during early gestation. This result suggests that a sequence of MyHC transitions plays an important role in determining muscle fiber function at fetal, neonatal, and adult stages.