Cells from newborn rat hindlimb show greatly enhanced myogenicity when grown on surfaces coated with poly-L-lysine followed by laminin (PLL/Lam) instead of the collagens routinely used. Coating with poly-L-lysine (PLL) alone or with PLL followed by collagen does not enhance myogenicity. Both myogenic and nonmyogenic cells, as distinguished by a monoclonal antibody specific for desmin, attach equally well to collagen- and laminin-coated surfaces, but there is a two- to five-fold increase in the number of myogenic cells on PLL/Lam by 72 hr, followed by increased myotube formation. To determine whether this increase in myogenic cells was a consequence of a selective increase in proliferation on PLL/Lam, incorporation of 5-bromodeoxyuridine into DNA followed by labeling with anti-BrdUrd antibody was used as an index of cell proliferation. The results indicate that desmin is expressed in replicating rat myoblasts, and that replication of myogenic cells is greatly enhanced on laminin compared to collagen. The rate of replication of nonmyogenic cells is the same on both substrates. Addition of 10 micrograms/ml laminin to the medium of cells seeded on PLL or collagen has no effect on myogenicity. We conclude that a laminin substrate enhances skeletal myogenesis in vitro by promoting selectively the replication of myoblasts. Cultures prepared from fetuses at 17 and 19 days gestation also show enhanced myogenicity when grown on PLL/Lam, while those from 15-day fetuses do not. Growth and development of fetal myoblasts on collagen were very poor, whereas myoblasts from the newborn rat do proliferate and differentiate on this substrate. Thus myogenic cells at different stages of fetal and neonatal development may require and respond to different extracellular environments. Myotube formation in the E63 clone of L8 rat myoblasts is inhibited by PLL/Lam.