Calsequestrin is a high capacity Ca2+-binding protein in the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) lumen. To elucidate the functional role of calsequestrin in vivo, transgenic mice were generated that overexpressed mouse cardiac calsequestrin in the heart. Overexpression (20-fold) of calsequestrin was associated with cardiac hypertrophy and induction of a fetal gene expression program. Isolated transgenic cardiomyocytes exhibited diminished shortening fraction (46%), shortening rate (60%), and relengthening rate (60%). The Ca2+ transient amplitude was also depressed (45%), although the SR Ca2+ storage capacity was augmented, as suggested by caffeine application studies. These alterations were associated with a decrease in L-type Ca2+ current density and prolongation of this channel's inactivation kinetics without changes in Na+-Ca2+ exchanger current density. Furthermore, there were increases in protein levels of SR Ca2+- ATPase, phospholamban, and calreticulin and decreases in FKBP12, without alterations in ryanodine receptor, junctin, and triadin levels in transgenic hearts. Left ventricular function analysis in Langendorff perfused hearts and closed-chest anesthetized mice also indicated depressed rates of contraction and relaxation of transgenic hearts. These findings suggest that calsequestrin overexpression is associated with increases in SR Ca2+ capacity, but decreases in Ca2+-induced SR Ca2+ release, leading to depressed contractility in the mammalian heart.