Hypertrophy of extensor digitorum longus muscle, overloaded by the removal of the synergist tibialis anterior (TA) muscle, in growing rats is inhibited if endogenous satellite cells are sterilized by exposure to irradiation. However, normal muscle growth is not eliminated, only diminished. To test whether irradiated, overloaded muscle can hypertrophy in the absence of normal growth-related stimuli, experiments were conducted on mature rats. TA muscle ablation caused hypertrophy of EDL muscle, characterized by a significant increase in muscle mass and the size of type IIx and type IIb fibers, and a proportional increase in the number of myonuclei. When ablation was preceded by irradiation, hypertrophy did not occur. The results indicate that satellite cell activation, division, and fusion is necessary for compensatory hypertrophy of fully mature muscle, and may be important to the understanding of the limits of recovery of inherited muscle myopathies treated by myogenic cell implantation.