1. Single muscle fibres were enzymatically isolated from the soleus and extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles of genetically dystrophic mdx and normal (C57BL/10) mice aged 3-6 or 17-23 weeks. 2. Fibres of both muscles were chemically skinned with the non-ionic detergent Triton X-100 (2% v/v). Ca(2+)- and Sr(2+)-activated contractile responses were recorded and comparisons were made between several contractile parameters of various fibre types of normal and dystrophic mice of similar age. 3. There were no significant differences in the following contractile parameters of skinned fibres of normal and mdx mice of the same age: sensitivity to activating Ca2+ (pCa50) or Sr2+ (pSr50) and differential sensitivity to the activating ions (pCa50-pSr50). However the maximum isometric tension (Po) and the frequency of myofibrillar force oscillations in EDL fast-twitch fibres of young mdx mice were significantly lower than those of soleus fast-twitch fibres of the same animals, or fast-twitch fibres (EDL or soleus) of normal mice. 4. Age-related differences were apparent in some contractile parameters of both normal and mdx mice. In particular the steepness of force-pCa and force-pSr curves increased with age in normal mice, yet decreased with age in fibres of mdx mice. 5. A fluorescent probe, ethidium bromide, which interchelates with DNA, was used with laser-scanning confocal microscopy to determine the distribution of myonuclei in fibres. Fibres isolated from either muscle type of normal animals displayed a characteristic peripheral spiral of myonuclei. Fibres from muscles of mdx mice displayed three major patterns of nuclear distribution; the normal peripheral spiral, long central strands of nuclei, and a mixture of these two patterns. 6. The contractile characteristics of mdx fibres were not markedly influenced by the nuclear distribution pattern in that there were no discernible differences in the major contractile parameters (the Hill coefficients nCa and nSr, which are associated with the steepness of the Ca2+ and Sr2+ activation curves, pCa50, pSr50, pCa50-pSr50) of skinned fibres possessing peripheral or central nuclei. However, except for nSr, these values were all lower in individual fibres which displayed similar proportions of central and peripheral nuclei. The presence of mixed nucleation and absence of fibres with embryonic contractile characteristics in mdx mice suggest that the dystrophin-negative fibres can repair locally occurring muscle damage.