We determined the configuration of lungs and chest in six healthy young subjects using anteroposterior and lateral technetium-99m-labeled scintigraphic images obtained in upright and in 90 degree head-down posture at 0, 25, 50, 75, and 100% vital capacity (VC). The lung shape was evaluated from curves relating vertical height vs. cumulative volume of 20 apicodiaphragmatic lung zones of equal height. S-shaped curves were obtained, which, after size normalization, were largely independent of volume or posture (P greater than 0.1). However, the apical zones tended to become relatively wider and the diaphragmatic zones relatively smaller with increasing volume, especially between 0 and 25% VC in upright posture and 0-50% VC in head-down posture. Changing posture from upright to head-down also tended to slightly widen the apical zones and to narrow the diaphragmatic zones, which is in line with a greater intrathoracic penetration of the diaphragm/abdomen. The shape of the chest was evaluated from the ratio of the transverse-thoracic and anteroposterior distances over height. These ratios did not clearly change with posture (P greater than or equal to 0.05) but increased by approximately 30% with decreasing volume (P less than 0.01). The fact that these shape changes of the chest were not accompanied by similar changes in lung shape can be explained mainly by widening of the mediastinum when volume decreases. In conclusion, the shape of the lung and chest are similar in head-down and upright humans, in contrast to the reversal of the apicodiaphragmatic differences in alveolar expansion and in transpulmonary pressure.