Proinflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, contribute to muscle wasting in inflammatory disorders, where TNFalpha acts to regulate myogenic genes. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) has shown promise as an antiproliferative and antiinflammatory agent, leading to its potential as a therapeutic agent in muscle-wasting disorders. To evaluate the effect of CLA on myogenesis during inflammation, human primary muscle cells were grown in culture and exposed to varying concentrations of TNFalpha and the cis-9, trans-11 and trans-10, cis-12 CLA isomers. Expression of myogenic genes (Myf5, MyoD, myogenin, and myostatin) and the functional genes creatine kinase (CK) and myosin heavy chain (MHC IIx) were measured by real-time PCR. TNFalpha significantly downregulated MyoD and myogenin expression, whereas it increased Myf5 expression. These changes corresponded with a decrease in both CK and MHC IIx expression. Both isomers of CLA mimicked the inhibitory effect of TNFalpha treatment on MyoD and myogenin expression, whereas myostatin expression was diminished in the presence of both isomers of CLA either alone or in combination with TNFalpha. Both isomers of CLA decreased CK and MHC IIx expression. These findings demonstrate that TNFalpha can have specific regulatory effects on myogenic genes in primary human muscle cells. A postulated antiinflammatory role of CLA in myogenesis appears more complex, with an indication that CLA may have a negative effect on this process.