To better understand the molecular basis of the large variation in mechanical properties of different fiber types, there has been an intense effort to relate the mechanical and energetic properties measured in skinned single fibers to those of their constituent cross bridges. There is a significant technical obstacle, however, in estimating the number of cross bridges in a single fiber. In this study, we have developed a procedure for extraction and quantification of myosin heavy chains (MHCs) that permits the routine and direct measurement of the myosin content in single muscle fibers. To validate this method, we also compared MHC concentration measured in single fibers with the MHC concentration in whole fast-twitch (psoas and gracilis) and slow-twitch (soleus) muscles of rabbit. We found that the MHC concentration in intact psoas (184 microM) was larger than that in soleus (144 microM), as would be expected from their differing mitochondrial content and volume of myofibrils. We obtained excellent agreement between MHC concentration measured at the single fiber level with that measured at the whole muscle level. This not only verifies the efficacy of our procedure but also shows that the difference in concentration at the whole muscle level simply reflects the concentration differences in the constituent fiber types. This new procedure should be of considerable help in future attempts to determine kinetic differences in cross bridges from different fiber types.