Porcine myogenic cells isolated from 50 to 55-d porcine fetuses were frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen until they were needed to establish cultures. Approximately 75.8 +/- .59% of the clonal cultures established from these frozen stocks produced myotubes and 60.8 +/- 2.3% of the nuclei in differentiated mass cultures were in myotubes. Differentiated cultures contained higher levels of creatine phosphokinase activity than undifferentiated cultures. Additionally, differentiated cultures incorporated [35S]methionine into putative myosin heavy chain, alpha-actinin, and actin more rapidly than did undifferentiated cultures. Insulin, insulin-like growth factor I, and sera stimulated total protein synthesis rate and decreased total protein degradation rate in myotube cultures. Based on our initial characterization, we believe that we have developed an effective and practical procedure for isolating and culturing fetal porcine myogenic cells.