ATP exerts a variety of actions within the myocardium, including the regulation of coronary vascular tone and modulation of the autonomic control of the heart. In order to characterise the ATP receptor subtypes involved in these effects, degenerate oligonucleotides were used to clone receptors of both P2X and P2Y families from the human foetal heart. About 1 ng of "Quick-Clone cDNA" from foetal human heart was subjected to amplification with two pairs of degenerate oligonucleotides designed to amplify subtypes of the P2X and P2Y receptor families by means of PCR reactions. The sequence analysis of 34 and 29 clones of the P2X and P2Y receptor families, respectively, demonstrated that P2X1, P2X3 and P2X4 subtypes are present in the human foetal heart together with P2Y6, P2Y2 and P2Y4 receptors. P2X1 and P2Y4 receptor subtypes were here characterised for the first time in the human foetal heart. The present study provides the first molecular characterisation of ATP receptors in the foetal human heart. The results show that many P2 receptor subtypes are expressed in the foetal human heart, perhaps contributing to developmental processes as well as to the activity of the foetal heart.