5-azacytidine treatment of mouse C3H10T1/2 embryonic fibroblasts converts them to myoblasts at a frequency suggesting alteration of one or only a few closely linked regulatory loci. Assuming such loci to be differentially expressed as poly(A)+ RNA in proliferating myoblasts, we prepared proliferating myoblast-specific, subtracted cDNA probes to screen a myocyte cDNA library. Based on a number of criteria, three cDNAs were selected and characterized. We show that expression of one of these cDNAs transfected into C3H10T1/2 fibroblasts, where it is not normally expressed, is sufficient to convert them to stable myoblasts. Myogenesis also occurs, but to a lesser extent, when this cDNA is expressed in a number of other cell lines. The major open reading frame encoded by this cDNA contains a short protein segment similar to a sequence present in the myc protein family.