Following skeletal muscle injury, new fibers form from resident satellite cells which reestablish the fiber composition of the original muscle. We have used a cell culture system to analyze satellite cells isolated from adult chicken and quail pectoralis major (PM; a fast muscle) and anterior latissimus dorsi (ALD; a slow muscle) to determine if satellite cells isolated from fast or slow muscles produce one or several types of fibers when they form new fibers in vitro in the absence of innervation or a specific extracellular milieu. The types of fibers formed in satellite cell cultures were determined using immunoblotting and immunocytochemistry with monoclonal antibodies specific for avian fast and slow myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoforms. We found that satellite cells were of different types and that fast and slow muscles differed in the percentage of each type they contained. Primary satellite cells isolated from the PM formed only fast fibers, while up to 25% of those isolated from ALD formed fibers that were both fast and slow (fast/slow fibers), the remainder being fast only. Fast/slow fibers formed from chicken satellite cells expressed slow MHC1, while slow MHC2 predominated in fast/slow fibers formed from quail satellite cells. Prolonged primary culture did not alter the relative proportions of fast to fast/slow fibers in high density cultures of either chicken or quail satellite cells. No change in commitment was observed in fibers formed from chicken satellite cell progeny repeatedly subcultured at high density, while fibers formed from subcultured quail satellite cell progeny demonstrated increasing commitment to fast/slow fiber type formation. Quail satellite cells cloned from high density cultures formed colonies that demonstrated a similar change in commitment from fast to fast/slow, as did serially subcloned individual satellite cell progeny, indicating that the observed change from fast to fast/slow differentiation resulted from intrinsic changes within a satellite cell. Thus satellite cells freshly isolated from adult chicken and quail are committed to form fibers of at least two types, satellite cells of these two types are found in different proportions in fast and slow muscles, and repeated cell proliferation of quail satellite cell progeny may alter satellite cell progeny to increasingly form fibers of a single type.