Soft-tissue sarcomas are heterogeneous cancers that can present with tissue-specific differentiation markers. To examine the cellular basis for this histopathological variation and to identify sarcoma-relevant molecular pathways, we generated a chimeric mouse model in which sarcoma-associated genetic lesions can be introduced into discrete, muscle-resident myogenic and mesenchymal cell lineages. Expression of Kirsten rat sarcoma viral oncogene [Kras(G12V)] and disruption of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2A (CDKN2A; p16p19) in prospectively isolated satellite cells gave rise to pleomorphic rhabdomyosarcomas (MyoD-, Myogenin- and Desmin-positive), whereas introduction of the same oncogenetic hits in nonmyogenic progenitors induced pleomorphic sarcomas lacking myogenic features. Transcriptional profiling demonstrated that myogenic and nonmyogenic Kras; p16p19(null) sarcomas recapitulate gene-expression signatures of human rhabdomyosarcomas and identified a cluster of genes that is concordantly up-regulated in both mouse and human sarcomas. This cluster includes genes associated with Ras and mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling, a finding consistent with activation of the Ras and mTOR pathways both in Kras; p16p19(null) sarcomas and in 26-50% of human rhabdomyosarcomas surveyed. Moreover, chemical inhibition of Ras or mTOR signaling arrested the growth of mouse Kras; p16p19(null) sarcomas and of human rhabdomyosarcoma cells in vitro and in vivo. Taken together, these data demonstrate the critical importance of lineage commitment within the tumor cell-of-origin in determining sarcoma histotype and introduce an experimental platform for rapid dissection of sarcoma-relevant cellular and molecular events.