When cardiac muscle cells are isolated from embryonic chicks and grown in culture they attach to the substrate as spherical cells with disrupted myofibrils, and over several days in culture, they spread and extend lamellae. Based on antibody localizations of various cytoskeletal proteins within the spreading cardiomyocyte, three types of myofibrils have been identified: 1) fully formed mature myofibrils that are centrally positioned in the cell, 2) premyofibrils that are closest to the cell periphery, and 3) nascent myofibrils located between the premyofibrils and the mature myofibrils. Muscle-specific myosin is localized in the A-bands in the mature, contractile myofibrils, and along the nascent myofibrils in a continuous pattern, but it is absent from the premyofibrils. Antibodies to non-muscle isoforms of myosin IIB react with the premyofibrils at the cell periphery and with the nascent myofibrils, revealing short bands of myosin between closely spaced bands of alpha-actinin. In the areas where the nascent myofibrils border on the mature myofibrils, the bands of non-muscle myosin II reach lengths matching the lengths of the mature A-bands. With the exception of a small transition zone consisting of one myofibril, or sometimes several sarcomeres, bordering the nascent myofibrils, there is no reaction of these non-muscle myosin IIB antibodies with the mature myofibrils in spreading myocytes. C-protein is found only in the mature myofibrils, and its presence there may prevent co-polymerization of non-muscle and muscle myosins. Antibodies directed against the non-muscle myosin isoforms, IIA, do not stain the cardiomyocytes. In contrast to the cardiomyocytes, the fibroblasts in these cultures stain with antibodies to both non-muscle myosin IIA and IIB. The premyofibrils near the leading edge of the lamellae show no reaction with antibodies to either titin or zeugmatin, whereas the nascent myofibrils and mature myofibrils do. The spacings of the banded alpha-actinin staining range from 0.3 to 1.4 microns in the pre- and nascent myofibrils and reach full spacings (1.8-2.5 microns) in the mature myofibrils. Based on these observations, we propose a premyofibril model in which non-muscle myosin IIB, titin, and zeugmatin play key roles in myofibrillogenesis. This model proposes that pre- and nascent myofibrils are composed of minisarcomeres that increase in length, presumably by the concurrent elongation of actin filaments, the loss of the non-muscle myosin II filaments, the fusion of dense bodies or Z-bodies to form wide Z-bands, and the capture and alignment of muscle myosin II filaments to form the full spacings of mature myofibrils.