Xenogeneic antisera raised in rabbits have been used to detect compositional changes at the cell surfaces of differentiating embryonic chick skeletal muscle. In this report, we present the serological characterization of antiserum (Anti-M-24) against muscle tissue and developmental stage-specific cell surface antigens of the prefusion myoblast. Cells from primary cultures of 12-d-old embryonic chick hindlimb muscle were injected into rabbits, and the resulting antisera were selectively absorbed to obtain immunological specificity. Cytotoxicity and immunohistochemical assays were used to test this antiserum. Absorption with embryonic or adult chick heart, brain, retina, liver, erythrocytes, or skeletal muscle fibroblasts failed to remove all reactivity of Anti-M-24 for myogenic cells at all stages of development. After absorption with embryonic myotubes, however, Anti-M-24 no longer reacted with differentiated myofibers, but did react with prefusion myoblasts. The myoblast surface antigens detected with Anti-M-24 are components of the muscle cell membrane: (a) these macromolecules are free to diffuse laterally within the myoblast membrane; (b) Anti-M-24, in the presence of complement, induced lysis of the muscle cell membrane; and (c) intact monolayers of viable myoblasts completely absorbed reactivity of Anti-M-24 for myoblasts. These antigens are not loosely adsorbed culture medium components or an artifact of tissue culture because: (a) absorption of Anti-M-24 with homogenized embryonic muscle removed all antibodies to cultured myoblasts; (b) Anti-M-24 reacted with myoblast surfaces in vivo; and (c) absorption of Anti-M-24 with culture media did not affect the titer of this antiserum for myoblasts. We conclude that myogenic cells at all stages of development possess externally exposed antigens which are undetected on other embryonic and adult chick tissues. In addition, myoblasts exhibit surface antigenic determinants that are either masked, absent, or present in very low concentrations on skeletal muscle fibroblasts, embryonic myotubes, or adult myofibers. These antigens are free to diffuse laterally within the myoblast membrane and may be modulated in response to appropriate environmental cues during myodifferentiation.

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