Gene targeting has allowed the dissection of complex biological processes at the genetic level. Our understanding of the nuances of skeletal muscle development has been greatly increased by the analysis of mice carrying targeted null mutations in the Myf-5, MyoD and myogenin genes, encoding members of the myogenic regulatory factor (MRF) family. These experiments have elucidated the hierarchical relationships existing between the MRFs, and established that functional redundancy is a feature of the MRF regulatory network. Either MyoD or Myf-5 is sufficient for the formation or survival of skeletal myoblasts. Myogenin acts later in development and plays an essential in vivo role in the terminal differentiation of myotubes.