Three-dimensional (3-D) distribution of atrial and ventricular isomyosins is analysed immunohistochemically during the formation of the tubular chicken heart (stage 7 to 12 [H/H]) using antibodies specific for adult chicken atrial and ventricular myosin heavy chains, respectively. This analysis revealed that both types of isomyosins can be first detected at stage 8 (H/H, possessing four pairs of somites), i.e., when the heart primordium still exists as two separate cardiogenic plates. The ventricular type of isomyosin is initially expressed in those areas of cardiogenic plates in the vicinity of the anterior intestinal portal. The atrial type of isomyosin is initially expressed in zones caudal and lateral to the areas of ventricular isomyosin expression. Medial to the atrial isomyosin-expressing areas, cardiogenic plate areas exist that initially lack myosin expression. Those parts of the cardiogenic plates that fuse in front of the anterior intestinal portal, thereby forming the heart tube, are characterized by the expression of both isomyosins; however, the caudolateral parts of the heart primordium maintain their single atrial isomyosin expression during further development. Cardiac contractions are therefore first observed at stage 10 (H/H, possessing ten pairs of somites) in myocardium that coexpresses both isomyosins.