Muscle contraction implies flexibility in combination with force resistance and requires a high degree of sarcolemmal organization. Smooth muscle cells differentiate largely from mesenchymal precursor cells and gradually assume a highly periodic sarcolemmal organization. Skeletal muscle undergoes an even more striking differentiation programme, leading to cell fusion and alignment into myofibrils. The lipid bilayer of each cell type is further segregated into raft and non-raft microdomains of distinct lipid composition. Considering the extent of developmental rearrangement in skeletal muscle, we investigated sarcolemmal microdomain organization in skeletal and smooth muscle cells. The rafts in both muscle types are characterized by marker proteins belonging to the annexin family which localize to the inner membrane leaflet, as well as glycosyl-phosphatidyl-inositol (GPI)-anchored enzymes attached to the outer leaflet. We demonstrate that the profound structural rearrangements that occur during skeletal muscle maturation coincide with a striking decrease in membrane lipid segregation, downregulation of annexins 2 and 6, and a significant decrease in raft-associated 5'-nucleotidase activity. The relative paucity of lipid rafts in mature skeletal in contrast to smooth muscle suggests that the organization of sarcolemmal microdomains contributes to the muscle-specific differences in stimulatory responses and contractile properties.