To determine the role of the nerve on the establishment of myofiber diversity in skeletal muscles, the lumbosacral spinal cord of 14-day gestation mice (E14) was laser ablated, and the accumulation of the myosin alkali light chains (MLC) mRNAs in crural (hindleg) muscles was evaluated just prior to birth with in situ hybridization. Numbers of molecules of each alkali MLC/ng total RNA in the extensor digitorum longus (EDL) and soleus muscles were determined with competitive polymerase chain reaction. Transcripts for all four alkali MLCs accumulate in aneural muscles. Data suggest that: (1) the absence of the nerve to either future fast or slow muscles results in less accumulation of MLC1V transcript. Moreover, the presence of the nerve is required for the enhanced accumulation of this transcript in future slow muscles; (2) the absence of innervation of future slow, but not fast, muscles decreases the accumulation of MLC1A transcript. Since increased accumulation of MLC1A and MLC1V transcripts are found in future slow muscles at birth, the nerve is necessary for the development of the slow phenotype during myogenesis; (3) MLC1F and MLC3F transcripts do not display any preferential accumulation in future fast muscles during the fetal period. Therefore, the establishment of the differential distribution of these mRNAs, based on fiber type, is a postnatal phenomenon. The nerve is required during the fetal period to allow accumulation of MLC3F messages above a basal level in future fast as well as slow muscles; whereas, the absence of the innervation to future fast, but not slow, muscles reduces the accumulation of MLC1F. Thus, the accumulation of the various alkali MLC mRNAs shows a differential, rather than coordinate, response to the absence of the nerve, and this response may vary depending on the future fiber type of the muscles.