Inotropic effects of histamine were examined in isolated ventricular preparations from late embryonic and hatched chick hearts. In 19 day-old embryonic preparations, histamine had little effect on the contractile force. In preparations from 1 to 2 day-old hatched chick, histamine produced a transient decrease in contractile force followed by a sustained increase. The negative and positive responses were antagonized by atropine and propranolol, respectively, but not by histamine antagonists terfenadine, cimetidine or thioperamide. Acetylcholine produced positive inotropic responses in the embryo while negative responses were observed after hatching. In myocardium of hatched chicks, compound 48/80, which releases histamine from mast cells, produced a transient decrease in contractile force followed by a sustained increase with a similar magnitude and time course to the case of exogenously applied histamine. The negative and positive responses were inhibited by atropine and propranolol, respectively, but not by terfenadine, cimetidine or thioperamide, which was similar to the case with the responses to histamine. The present results suggest that histamine, either applied exogenously or released from myocardial store sites, produces negative and positive inotropic responses in hatched chick myocardium which are due to release of acetylcholine and norepinephrine, respectively, from autonomic nerve terminals.