The identity of the chemical factors controlling the spreading behaviour of sheets of cells was examined in organ culture. When aggregates of two dissimilar tissues are apposed in organ culture, one tissue spreads reproducibly over the surface of the second. The present study employed indirect immunofluorescent localization techniques to evaluate the hypothesis that the spreading behaviour of chick embryonic heart tissue in culture is dominated by the presence or absence of the cell-surface and extracellular matrix protein fibronectin in the surface layers of the aggregates. Specifically, the hypothesis proposes that aggregates that display surface fibronectin earlier after culturing and/or in higher quantities segregate internally to aggregates that are slower to develop a surface layer of fibronectin or in which this layer contains reduced amounts of fibronectin. The hypothesis has been supported for 3 categories of behaviour of chick embryo heart tissue: (1) myocyte aggregates spread over myocyte aggregates containing a 20% admixture of heart fibroblasts, which in turn spread over heart fibroblast aggregates; (2) 5-day embryonic ventricle-tissue fragments maintained in culture for 0.5 days spread over ventricle fragments cultured for 2.5 days; and (3) 2-day embryonic ventricle spreads over 5-day ventricle. In all these situations, the aggregate type that segregates to an internal position displays more fibronectin at its surface than aggregate types that spread to occupy an external position. Evidence is presented that the fibronectin in heart tissue aggregates is elaborated by heart fibroblasts.