Skeletal muscle fibers are surrounded by an extracellular matrix. The extracellular matrix is composed of glycoproteins, collagen, and proteoglycans. Proteoglycans have been suggested to play an important functional role in tissue differentiation. However, an understanding of how the extracellular matrix affects skeletal muscle development and function is largely unknown. In the avian genetic muscle weakness, low score normal (LSN), a late embryonic increase in the expression of decorin is followed by a subsequent increase in collagen crosslinking. The sarcomere organization, collagen fibril diameter and organization were investigated using transmission electron microscopy. Measurements were made at 20 days of embryonic development and 6 weeks posthatch. These studies showed changes in sarcomere organization and deterioration of muscle fibril structure in the LSN pectoral muscle. In vitro satellite cell cultures were developed and assayed for mitochondrial activity, and protein synthesis and degradation. In these analyses, mitochondrial activity from LSN satellite cells was significantly higher than those from normal pectoral muscle satellite cells. Protein synthesis rates between the normal and LSN satellite cell-derived myotubes were similar, but protein degradation rates were higher in the LSN cultures. Based on the reported functions of decorin as a regulator of cell proliferation and collagen fibril organization, it is possible that the late embryonic increase in decorin may be influencing the alterations in LSN sarcomere and collagen organization.