Molecular signaling pathways linking the hypertrophy after mechanical overloading in vivo have not been identified. Using western blot analysis, immunoprecipitation, and immunohistochemistry, we investigated the effect of the mechanical overloading state on RhoA, serum response factor (SRF), and MyoD in the rat plantaris muscle. Adult male rats (10 weeks of age) were used in this experiment. Compensatory enlargement of the plantaris muscle was induced in one leg of each rat by surgical removal of the ipsilateral soleus and gastrocnemius muscles. In the normal plantaris muscle of rats, slight expression of RhoA and SRF was observed in the quiescent satellite cells possessing CD34 and c-Met. Western blotting using the homogenate of whole muscle clearly showed that mechanical overloading of the plantaris muscle significantly increased the amount of RhoA during 3-6 days postsurgery. Threonine phosphorylation of SRF occurred at 2-4 h after mechanical overloading. The most marked increase in SRF protein was observed in the hypertrophied muscle at 6 days postsurgery. At 2 days postoperation, SRF immunoreactivity was not detected in the proliferating satellite cells possessing bromodeoxyuridine and in the infiltrating macrophages expressing ED1 in the overloaded muscle by surgical removal. The SRF protein was colocalized with RhoA, FAK, and myogenin but not Myf-5 in many mononuclear cells at 6 days of functional overload. At this time, MyoD immunoreactivity was detected in the cytoplasm of mononuclear cells (possibly satellite cell-derived myoblasts) possessing SRF protein at the nucleus. These results suggest that the signaling pathway through RhoA-FAK-SRF is important to the differentiation of satellite cells by interacting MyoD and myogenin in the hypertrophied muscle of rats.