The fibre-type specific expression patterns of fast and slow isoforms of essential (alkali) myosin light chains (ELC) was analysed in trained, untrained and pathological human muscles. Biopsies from m. vastus lateralis of moderately trained and untrained persons, as well as highly trained endurance and strength athletes were analysed, by in situ hybridization, for the expression of the 'fast' ELC 1f/3f and the 'slow' ELC 1sb. We wanted to investigate if changes in the fibre-type specific ELC mRNA pattern could be used as markers for training adaptation, especially, if the mRNA of the slow ELC 1sb isoform would appear in type IIA fibres as a result of endurance training (Baumann et al. 1987). We found the fast/slow ELC expression patterns in the fibre types to be remarkably stable. Physiological stress, even high training loads, did not affect it. No IIA fibres expressing ELC 1sb mRNA were found. They could be detected, however, in pathological muscle samples, where fast/slow ELC patterns not found in normal muscles were frequent. Our data suggest that in healthy muscles, only a subset of the theoretically possible combinations of myosin heavy and light chain isoforms are expressed at the level of their mRNAs.