Previous work has demonstrated that prolonged treatment of chick embryos in vivo with muscarinic agonists leads to a decrease in the number of muscarinic acetylcholine binding sites in the heart and a decrease in the sensitivity of isolated atria to the negative chronotropic response to muscarinic stimulation. We show here that treatment with the agonist carbachol leads to greater decreases in receptor number than does treatment with oxotremorine. Simultaneous treatment with oxotremorine and carbachol resulted in partial blockage in the maximal decrease in receptor number seen after treatment with carbachol alone. After treatment of embryos in vivo with carbachol to decrease the reserve of spare receptors in the atria, oxotremorine could no longer elicit a significant negative chronotropic response under conditions in which carbachol was still effective. These results demonstrate that oxotremorine is a partial agonist at the muscarinic acetylcholine receptor in the embryonic chick heart.