Acheron (Achn), a phylogenetically-conserved member of the Lupus antigen family of RNA binding proteins, was initially identified as a novel cell death-associated gene from the intersegmental muscles of the tobacco hawkmoth Manduca sexta. C(2)C(12) cells are a standard model for the study of myogenesis. When deprived of growth factors, these cells can be induced to: form multinucleated myotubes, arrest as quiescent satellite-like reserve cells, or undergo apoptosis. Achn expression is induced in myoblasts that form myotubes and acts upstream of the muscle specific transcription factor MyoD. Forced expression of ectopic Achn resulted in the formation of larger myotubes and massive reserve cell death relative to controls. Conversely, dominant-negative or antisense Achn blocked myotube formation following loss of growth factors, suggesting that Achn plays an essential, permissive role in myogenesis. Studies in zebrafish embryos support this hypothesis. Reduction of Achn with antisense morpholinos led to muscle fiber loss and an increase in the number of surviving cells in the somites, while ectopic Achn enhanced muscle fiber formation and reduced cell numbers. These results display a crucial evolutionarily conserved role for Achn in myogenesis and suggest that it plays key roles in the processes of differentiation and self-renewal.