Using an antiserum raised in rabbits against embryonic chick skeletal myoblasts (Anti-M-24), we have examined the trypsin and neuraminidase sensitivity and physiological expression of myoenic cell surface antigens. It was found that trypsin-released muscle cells more effectively inhibited, on a cell to cell basis, the cytotoxicity of Anti-M-24 for 24-h-old myoblast monolayers than did identical cells that had received a 3-4 h suspension culture recovery period from trypsinization. There was no such difference in absorptive capacities observed for any other embryonic chick tissue tested (e.g. brain, retina, liver, heart, and red blood cells) when freshly trypsinized cells were compared to ones which were given a 3-4 h culture period. If freshly trypsinized muscle cells were treated with high concentrations (30,000 international units (IU)/0.1 ml packed cells) of trypsin or with neuraminidase (30,000 IU/ml packed cells), there was a selective loss of myoblast-specific surface antigens. When single cells that had been in suspension culture for 3.5 h were reexposed to low concentrations (10,000 IU/0.1 ml packed cells) of trypsin, more antigenic sites were revealed on their surfaces as detected by an increased absorptive capacity in removing myoblast-binding antibodies from Anti-M-24. This increase in antigenic expression was time-dependent and inversely related to the length of culture time after trypsinization. Immunofluorescence studies revealed that tissue specific myoblast cell surface antigens are present on both muscle cells that were freshly dissociated and those that had been in suspension culture for 3-4 h. Furthermore, freshly trypsinized myoblasts possessed cell surface components that were highly antigenic; antiserum to such cells reacted extensively with both trypsinized and recovered muscle cells as detected by complement-dependent 51Cr release cytotoxicity assays and immunofluorescence. We conclude that embryonic chick myoblasts possess surface antigens that may be selectively removed by neuraminidase or high concentrations of trypsin. These antigens may be progressively masked, with increasing time of culture after protease-dissociation, by molecules that are sensitive to low concentrations of trypsin. Such masking of tissue-specific cell surface antigens could result in the display of molecular mosaics which may play a role in facilitating intercellular recognition and subsequent differentiation and histogenesis.