A new skeletal muscle cell line, rat myoblast omega or RMo, has been characterized with regard to the effects of three growth factors: basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), and transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta). Results indicate a differential response of these factors on both cell proliferation and differentiation. Exposure to bFGF and IGF-I stimulate proliferation, while TGF-beta has no effect on cell number. RMo cell differentiation, as indicated by skeletal myosin synthesis, is enhanced by IGF-I, whereas both bFGF and TGF-beta suppress differentiation. These responses are in agreement with the effects of bFGF, IGF-I, and TGF-beta on myogenic cells cultured from fetal and postnatal muscle, thereby suggesting that RMo cells can serve as a model system for the study of growth factor effects on skeletal muscle cells.