Embryonic chick myocyte pairs were isolated from ventricular tissue of 4-day, 14-day, and 18-day heart for the purpose of examining the relationship between macroscopic junctional conductance and transjunctional voltage during cardiac development. The double whole-cell patch-clamp technique was employed to directly measure junctional conductance over a transjunctional voltage range of +/- 100 mV. At all ages, the instantaneous junctional current (or conductance = current/voltage) varied linearly with respect to transjunctional voltage. This initial response was followed by a time- and voltage-dependent decline in junctional current to new steady-state values. For every experiment, the steady-state junctional conductance was normalized to the instantaneous value obtained at each potential and the data was pooled according to developmental age. The mean steady-state junctional conductance-voltage relationship for each age group was fit using a two-state Boltzmann distribution described previously for other voltage-dependent gap junctions. From this model, it was revealed that half-inactivation voltage for the transjunctional voltage-sensitive conductance shifted towards larger potentials by 10 mV, the equivalent gating charge increased by approximately 1 electron, and the minimal voltage-insensitive conductance exactly doubled (increased from 18 to 36%) between 4 and 18 days of development. Decay time constants were similar at all ages examined as rate increased with increasing transjunctional potential. This data provides the first direct experimental evidence for developmental changes in the regulation of intercellular communication within a given tissue. This information is consistent with the hypothesis that developmental expression of multiple gap junction proteins (connexins) may confer different regulatory mechanisms on intercellular communication pathways within a given cell or tissue.