The role of myosins in Xenopus retinal ganglion cell growth cone motility in the optic tract was studied using two pharmacologic inhibitors with different specificities. 2,3-Butanedione monoxime (BDM) disrupts myosin-actin interactions of all myosins, and ML-7 specifically inhibits activation of myosin II. Both inhibitors caused growth cones to assume a collapsed morphology and decreased growth cone speed. Similar effects were observed in vitro. Interestingly, the effects of the two inhibitors, while similar, were clearly distinguishable, raising the possibility that different myosins may have different functional roles in growth cone motility. BDM caused growth cones to withdraw lamellipodia and some filopodia and eventually to freeze, whereas ML-7 caused total collapse and retraction. Concentrations of BDM and ML-7 that had no effect when applied independently stopped growth cones when applied simultaneously, suggesting that these inhibitors act synergistically on myosin function, thus providing evidence of specificity. These results imply that normal growth cone motility in the molecularly and spatially complex environment of the living brain requires myosin function.