The experiments reported here document that the tumor suppressor retinoblastoma protein (pRB) plays an important role in the production and maintenance of the terminally differentiated phenotype of muscle cells. We show that pRB inactivation, through either phosphorylation, binding to T antigen, or genetic alteration, inhibits myogenesis. Moreover, inactivation of pRB in terminally differentiated cells allows them to reenter the cell cycle. In addition to its involvement in the myogenic activities of MyoD, pRB is also required for the cell growth-inhibitory activity of this myogenic factor. We also show that pRB and MyoD directly bind to each other, both in vivo and in vitro, through a region that involves the pocket and the basic-helix-loop-helix domains, respectively. All the results obtained are consistent with the proposal that the effects of MyoD on the cell cycle and of pRB on the myogenic pathway result from the direct binding of the two molecules.