The pattern of organogenesis of the aneural soleus muscle of the 129ReJ mouse [rendered aneural by laser ablation of the lumbosacral spinal cord at 14 days in utero (during the period of primary myotube formation, but prior to the formation of secondary myotubes)] was evaluated quantitatively with spaced, serial ultrathin sections and computer-assisted morphometric analysis. Aneural muscles from 16- and 18-day gestation and newborn mice were analyzed to determine age-related changes in a number of parameters including: muscles' maximal girths, numbers of myotubes, myotube diameter distributions, and cluster frequency. Data were compared with a similar study of the organogenesis of the normal soleus muscle (Ontell et al: Am J Anat 181:279-288, 1988). Basic patterns of morphogenesis of the soleus muscle were unchanged by spinal cord ablation, and differences in development between the aneural and innervated muscles were quantitative rather than qualitative. At birth, the aneural muscle contained approximately 76% of the myotubes found in the innervated muscle (approximately 840 myotubes in the innervated muscle and approximately 640 in the aneural muscle). Evidence is presented consistent with the hypothesis that primary myotube formation is reduced by approximately 32% in the aneural muscles and that while extensive secondary myotube formation occurs (approximately 78% of the myotube present at birth in these muscles are secondary myotubes), there is a significant reduction in the number of secondary myotubes in aneural muscles. It is suggested that the reduced numbers of secondary myotubes may be related to the reduction in the number of primary myotubes, which are known to act as scaffolds for secondary myotube formation. The time course of secondary myotube formation and of cluster formation and cluster dispersal and the number of cells per cluster are similar in age-matched, innervated and aneural muscles. The absence of innervation has little effect on myotube growth until birth, when comparison of the myotube diameter distributions reveals a slight alteration in myotube diameter distributions of aneural as compared with innervated muscles.