We have induced the stable expression of muscle-specific genes in human nonmuscle cells. Normal diploid human amniocytes were fused with differentiated mouse muscle cells by using polyethylene glycol. The fusion product, a stable heterocaryon in which the parental cell nuclei remained distinct, did not undergo division and retained a full complement of chromosomes. This is in contrast with typical interspecific hybrids (syncaryons), in which the parental nuclei are combined and chromosomes are progressively lost during cell division. The human muscle proteins, myosin light chains 1 and 2, MB and MM creatine kinase and a functional mouse-human hybrid MM enzyme molecule were detected in the heterocaryons. Synthesis of these proteins was evident 24 hr after fusion and increased in a time-dependent manner thereafter. Our results indicate that differentiated mouse muscle nuclei can activate human muscle genes in the nuclei of a cell type in which they are not normally expressed, and that this activation occurs via the cytoplasm. The activators are still present in cells which have already initiated differentiation, are recognized by nuclei of another species, and do not diffuse between unfused cells. The reprogrammed amniocyte nuclei of stable heterocaryons provide a unique system in which to study the mechanisms regulating gene expression during cell specialization.