Previous studies of coronary artery ontogeny have stressed early development and therefore have dwelt mainly upon the origin of the endothelium of the nascent coronary artery stem. This study has analyzed the ontogeny of the vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) in the coronary arteries of the domestic chicken, by establishing the timing and deployment of smooth muscle alpha-actin (SMAA). Anti-SMAA was applied to sections of normal embryos, and to sections of experimental embryos that had undergone surgical ablation of the neural crest over somites 1–3. The results show an orderly symmetrical deployment of SMAA in control coronary arteries. SMAA was expressed significantly earlier in the coronary artery VSMC compared with those of the cardiac outflow vessels; this early expression may indicate a unique responsiveness to induction of the smooth muscle phenotype. The normal orderly development of coronary artery VSMC was dependent upon the presence of the neural crest, and therefor was disrupted in the experimental embryos whose neural crest was ablated.© Willey-Liss, Inc.