Donor myoblast migration is a major limiting factor in the success of myoblast transfer therapy, a potential treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. A. possible strategy to promote the migration of donor myoblasts into host muscle is to enhance their proliferation and delay their fusion, two properties that are major characteristics of myoblasts in regenerating skeletal muscle in MyoD null (-/-) mice. Here we investigate whether the migration of MyoD (-/-) donor myoblasts into host muscle is enhanced in vivo, Sliced muscle grafts from male MyoD (-/-) or normal control (Balb/c) mice were transplanted into the muscles of female normal (Balb/c) host mice. Muscles were sam, pled at 1, 3, and 12 weeks after grafting, and the fate of male donor myoblasts within female host muscles determined by in situ hybridization with the mouse Y-chromosome-specific Y-1 probe. MyoD (-/-) donor myoblasts migrated into host muscle continuously over 1, 3, and 12 weeks after grafting, in contrast with Balb/c donor myoblasts, whose overall numbers and migratory distances did not increase significantly after 1 week. These results strongly support a role for elevated donor myoblast proliferation and/or their delayed fusion in enhancing migration into host muscle in vivo, and endorse the use of either genetically engineered donor myoblasts, or the administration of exogenous myoblast mitogens to improve donor myoblast migration in myoblast transfer therapy. (C) 2001 Academic Press.