The expression of the CD24 molecule, a glycoprotein expressed at the surface of most B lymphocytes and differentiating neuroblasts, was studied in developing nerve and muscle (after 16 weeks of gestation), normal adult and various diseased human muscles using immunohistochemistry and Western blot analysis. Immunohistochemical studies demonstrated that: (1) in developing muscles, fibers did not express CD24, whereas only some mesenchymal areas, also expressing neural cell adhesion molecule (N.CAM) and vimentin, and developing nerves were positive; (2) in normal adult muscles, CD24 immunoreactivity was observed only in some unmyelinated nerve fibers--intra and extra fusal muscle fibers, satellite cells and neuromuscular junctions were negative; and (3) in all diseased muscles studied here, CD24 expression was always associated with a subpopulation of regenerative fibers. These fibers also expressed vimentin, desmin, developmental myosin heavy chain, N.CAM and its polysialylated isoforms (PSA-N.CAM). The number of CD24-positive fibers was always lower than that of PSA-N.CAM-positive fibers. Denervated fibers and vacuolated muscle fibers never expressed CD24. Western blot analysis indicated that the apparent molecular mass of CD24 antigen was different between muscle and developing nervous tissues, suggesting that CD24 glycosylation is tissue specific. Since the molecule was not expressed in developing human muscle fibers, it strongly suggests that regenerative and fetal myotubes are different with respect to the CD24 molecule expression.