In post-mitotic tissues, damaged cells are not replaced by new cells and hence effective local tissue repair mechanisms are required. In skeletal muscle, which is a syncytium, additional nuclei are obtained from muscle satellite (stem) cells that multiply and then fuse with the damaged fibres. Although insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) had been previously implicated, it is now clear that muscle expresses at least two splice variants of the IGF-I gene: a mechanosensitive, autocrine, growth factor (MGF) and one that is similar to the liver type (IGF-IEa). To investigate this activation mechanism, local damage was induced by stretch combined with electrical stimulation or injection of bupivacaine in the rat anterior tibialis muscle and the time course of regeneration followed morphologically. Satellite cell activation was studied by the distribution and levels of expression of M-cadherin (M-cad) and related to the expression of the two forms of IGF-I. It was found that the following local damage MGF expression preceded that of M-cad whereas IGF-IEa peaked later than M-cad. The evidence suggests therefore that an initial pulse of MGF expression following damage is what activates the satellite cells and that this is followed by the later expression of IGF-IEa to maintain protein synthesis to complete the repair.