1. Electrophysiological and immunohistochemical properties during the early stages of muscle differentiation were studied in two myoblastic cell lines, mouse C2C12 and rat L6, and compared to those in myogenic clonal cells derived from the mouse mesodermal stem cell line C3H10T1/2, studied in the preceding paper. 2. Mouse C2C12 cells were induced to differentiate to muscle by changing from 10% fetal calf serum to 2% horse serum in the medium. Most of the C2C12 cells before serum reduction showed ATP-induced slow K+ current. Twelve per cent showed inward rectifier K+ current. They expressed fibronectin and Neural Cell Adhesion Molecule (NCAM). Small spindle-shaped cells at an early stage of muscle differentiation began to appear 24 h after serum reduction. In contrast to cells before serum reduction, only 13% of these spindle-shaped cells showed an ATP response. Most showed tetrodotoxin (TTX)-resistant Na+ current and outward K+ current. Thirty-eight per cent had inward rectifier K+ current. They expressed NCAM but not fibronectin. The T-type Ca2+ current was not observed up to the latest stage of differentiation investigated. 3. Rat L6 cells in maintaining culture medium showed only infrequent ATP responses, but already showed TTX-resistant Na+ current. No clear T-type Ca2+, inward rectifier K+ or outward K+ currents were observed. About one-third of the cells did not express fibronectin. From these results, L6 cells appear to be at a stage near to but slightly earlier than that of C2C12 cells after serum reduction. 4. The properties of the early stages of muscle differentiation in C3H10T1/2 cells, such as the disappearance of ATP-induced K+ current and fibronectin, and the appearance of NCAM, were also seen in C2C12 and L6. However, T-type Ca2+ and inward K+ currents, which were found in the initial stages of C3H10T1/2 muscle differentiation, were not clearly observed in C2C12 and L6. Instead, C2C12 and L6 showed a TTX-resistant Na+ current which was never observed in C3H10T1/2 cells. 5. The properties of the TTX-resistant Na+ current were investigated. In L6 cells, it was reduced to 60% by 1 microM-TTX. It could be evoked by depolarizations to a level above -50 mV with a maximum amplitude at around -15 mV. Steady-state inactivation was detectable with pre-pulses to -100 mV for 100 ms and reached half at pre-pulses of -78 mV. These parameters of inactivation are clearly different from those of the TTX-sensitive Na+ current observed in C3H10T1/2-derived mature muscle cells in the preceding paper.