Epicardial and endocardial pacing are widely used, yet little is known about the three-dimensional distribution of potentials generated by the pacing stimulus or the spread of activation from these pacing sites. In six open-chest dogs, simultaneous recordings were made from 120 transmural electrodes in 40 plunge electrodes within a 35 x 20 x 5-mm portion of the right ventricular outflow tract during epicardial and endocardial pacing at a strength of twice diastolic threshold and at 1 mA. The magnitude of extracellular potentials generated by the stimulus and the activation times were compared in regions proximal (< 10-12 mm) and distal to the pacing site. Local fiber orientation was histologically determined at each recording electrode. For endocardial pacing, endocardial potentials were larger than epicardial potentials only in the proximal region (p < 0.001); while in the distal region, epicardial potentials were larger (p < 0.001), and endocardial activation occurred earlier than epicardial activation for both regions (p < 0.001). For epicardial pacing, epicardial potentials were larger than endocardial potentials in both regions (p < 0.001), and epicardial activation occurred earlier only in the proximal region (p < 0.02), while endocardial activation occurred before epicardial activation in the distal region (p < 0.01). In planes of recording electrodes parallel to the epicardium and endocardium, the initial isochrones were elliptical with the major axes of the ellipses along the mean fiber orientation between the pacing site and recording plane rather than along the local fiber orientation in the recording plane. Thus, the ellipses in each plane rotated with respect to each other so that in three dimensions the activation front was helicoid, yet the twist of the helix was less than that of the corresponding transmural rotation of fibers. For pacing from the right ventricular outflow tract, we conclude that beyond 10-12 mm from endocardial and epicardial pacing sites epicardial stimulus potentials in both cases are larger than endocardial potentials because of resistivity differences inside and outside the heart wall and activation in both cases is primarily endocardial to epicardial because of rapid endocardial conduction, and we conclude that the initial spread of activation is helicoid and determined by transmural fiber direction.