Tropomodulin is a pointed end capping protein for tropomyosin-coated actin filaments that is hypothesized to play a role in regulating the precise lengths of striated muscle thin filaments (Fowler, V. M., M. A. Sussman, P. G. Miller, B. E. Flucher, and M. P. Daniels. 1993. J. Cell Biol. 120:411-420; Weber, A., C. C. Pennise, G. G. Babcock, and V. M. Fowler. 1994, J. Cell Biol. 127:1627-1635). To gain insight into the mechanisms of thin filament assembly and the role of tropomodulin therein, we have characterized the temporal appearance, biosynthesis and mechanisms of assembly of tropomodulin onto the pointed ends of thin filaments during the formation of striated myofibrils in primary embryonic chick cardiomyocyte cultures. Our results demonstrate that tropomodulin is not assembled coordinately with other thin filament proteins. Double immunofluorescence staining and ultrastructural immunolocalization demonstrate that tropomodulin is incorporated in its characteristic sarcomeric location at the pointed ends of the thin filaments after the thin filaments have become organized into periodic I bands. In fact, tropomodulin assembles later than all other well characterized myofibrillar proteins studied including: actin, tropomyosin, alpha-actinin, titin, myosin and C-protein. Nevertheless, at steady state, a significant proportion (approximately 39%) of tropomodulin is present in a soluble pool throughout myofibril assembly. Thus, the absence of tropomodulin in some striated myofibrils is not due to limiting quantities of the protein. In addition, kinetic data obtained from [35S]methionine pulse-chase experiments indicate that tropomodulin assembles more slowly into myofibrils than does tropomyosin. This observation, together with results obtained using a novel permeabilized cell model for thin filament assembly, indicate that tropomodulin assembly is dependent on the prior association of tropomyosin with actin filaments. We conclude that tropomodulin is a late marker for the assembly of striated myofibrils in cardiomyocytes; its assembly appears to be linked to their maturity. We propose that tropomodulin is involved in maintaining and stabilizing the final lengths of thin filaments after they are assembled.