A 107-kD protein has been identified in primary cultures of chicken embryonic cardiomyocytes by immunoprecipitations with certain anti-nebulin monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). These mAbs, prepared against a fragment of human skeletal muscle nebulin located near the carboxyl terminus, detect a 107-kD protein in extracts of adult chicken heart, adult mouse heart, and adult rabbit heart by immunoblot analysis. A partial cDNA corresponding to this protein has been isolated by immunological screening of a chicken heart cDNA expression vector library. The partial cDNA encodes a 380-amino acid open reading frame composed entirely of nebulin-like 35-residue modules marked by the highly conserved sequence motifs: SXXXYK and TPD. The open reading frame exhibits 60-85% homology with skeletal muscle nebulins from a variety of species. This cDNA recognizes an approximately 8-kb transcript in cardiac RNA and does not hybridize to skeletal muscle RNAs by northern analysis. Immunofluorescence localization of this nebulin-like protein in primary cultures of chicken cardiomyocytes and embryonic chicken cardiac myofibrils indicates that the protein is localized to the I-Z-I complex of the myofibrils, extending approximately 25% of the thin filament length. Comparisons of the distribution of this protein relative to actin, myosin, and titin in spreading cardiomyocytes suggest that the cardiac nebulin-like protein becomes aligned with the nascent myofibrils early during myofibrillogenesis. To distinguish this petite nebulin-like protein from the 600-900 kD skeletal muscle nebulin, we have named it nebulette.