Medial and lateral halves of the somite are known to differ with respect to their developmental fates: Cells from the medial half of the somite give rise to the epaxial muscle of the back and cells from the lateral half of the somite give rise to the skeletal muscles of the limbs and the ventrolateral body wall. To get a better insight into myogenic determination of somite hemispheres, isolated entire somites as well as medial and lateral parts of somites and of segmental plate from 2 day chick embryos were explanted in vitro. These parts of the paraxial mesoderm were also cocultured in contact with somite surrounding tissues such as neural tube lacking floorplate, neural tube including notochord-floorplate complex, and intermediate mesoderm, which were examined with respect to their muscle promoting or inhibiting influences. Skeletal muscle differentiation was monitored by the use of anti-myosin heavy chain antibody (MF20). It is shown that medial and lateral halves of segmental plate and epithelial somites are capable of undergoing myogenesis in the absence of axial organs. In contrast, cultures of intact segmental plate and epithelial somites from the same levels did not show muscle differentiation. Neural tube lacking floorplate promoted muscle differentiation in the medial halves especially of epithelial somites and also of segmental plate, but not in the lateral halves of the paraxial mesoderm at these levels. Intermediate mesoderm was found to inhibit muscle differentiation in medial and lateral halves of segmental plate and of epithelial somites. We further demonstrate that the arrangement of the myoblasts within tissue cultures is influenced by the presence or absence of axial organs.