Whilst developmentally regulated genes for the myosin heavy chain (MyoHC) have been characterised in mammalian, avian and amphibian species, no developmental MyoHC gene has previously been characterised in a species of fish. In this study, we identify two developmentally regulated MyoHC gene transcripts (named Eggs22 and Eggs24) in carp (Cyprinus carpio) and characterise their expression patterns during embryonic and larval development. The transcripts showed an identical temporal pattern of expression commencing 22 h post-fertilisation (18 degrees C incubation temperature), coincident with the switch from exclusive expression of genes for beta-actin to expression of genes for both beta- and alpha-actin, and continuing for 2 weeks post-hatching. No expression of these myosin transcripts was detected in juvenile or adult carp. Wholemount in situ hybridisation showed that both transcripts are expressed initially in the rostral region of the developing trunk and progress caudally. Both are expressed in the developing pectoral fin and protractor hyoideus muscles. However, the muscles of the lower jaw express only the Eggs22 transcript. No expression of either transcript was detected in cardiac or smooth muscle. A distinct chevron pattern of expression was observed in the myotomal muscle. This was shown to be caused by localisation of the mRNAs to the myoseptal regions of the fibres, the sites of new sarcomere addition during muscle growth, suggesting transport of MyoHC mRNA transcripts. The 3' untranslated region of the Eggs24 transcript contains a 10 base pair motif (AAAATGTGAA) which is shown to be also present in the 3' untranslated regions of MyoHC genes from a wide range of species. Possible reasons for the need for developmental isoforms of myosin heavy chain isoforms are discussed.