We studied the role of fibroblast growth factor (FGF)-1 in the physiology of myoblast differentiation. We found that, while endogenous FGF-1 in L6-10 rat myoblasts did not suppress the progress of differentiation, the addition of FGF-1 to the culture medium suppressed it. Moreover, L6-10 cells stably transfected with full length FGF-1 undergo enhanced differentiation. The latter was well correlated with myogenin expression and myotube formation. Constitutive expression of a mutant FGF-1 (FGF-1U) that lacked a nuclear localization signal, promoted the differentiation of the myoblasts even more strongly. Furthermore, the expression of FGF-1U in an inducible expression system enhanced myogenin expression promptly. In L6-10 transfectants expressing a dominant-negative mutant of FGF receptor, stable transfection of FGF-1 promoted differentiation as it did in parent cells. Studies with FGF receptors and MAP kinase suggest that both are involved in the effect of FGF-1 when it is supplemented to culture medium but not during the effect of endogenous FGF-1 synthesized in cells. We conclude that intracellular (endogenous) and extracellular (exogenous) FGF-1 have differential effects on the regulation of myogenic differentiation of L6-10 cells.