In this review we discuss the recent findings concerning the mechanisms that restrict somitic cells to the skeletal muscle fate, the myogenic regulatory factors controlling skeletal muscle differentiation and specification of myogenic cell lineages, the nature of inductive signals and the role of secreted proteins in embryonic patterning of the myotome. More specifically, we review data which strongly support the hypothesis that Myf-5 plays a unique role in development of epaxial muscle, that MyoD plays a unique role in development of hypaxial muscles derived from migratory myogenic precursor cells, and that both genes are responsible for development of intercostal and abdominal muscles (hypaxial muscles that develop from the dermatomal epithelia). In addition, while discussing upstream and post-translational regulation of myogenic regulatory factors (MRFs), we suggest that correct formation of the myotome requires a complex cooperation of DNA binding proteins and cofactors, as well as inhibitory function of non-muscle cells of the forming somite, whose proteins would sequester and suppress the transcription of MRFs. Moreover, in the third part of our review, we discuss embryonic structures, secreted proteins and myogenic induction. However, although different signaling molecules with activity in the process of somite patterning have been identified, not many of them are found to be necessary during in vivo embryonic development. To understand their functions, generation of multiple mutants or conditional/tissue-specific mutants will be necessary.