The effect of changes in temperature on the calcium sensitivity of tension development was examined in permeabilized cellular preparations of rat ventricle and rabbit psoas muscle. Maximum force and Ca2+ sensitivity of force development increased with temperature in both muscle types. Cardiac muscle was more sensitive to changes in temperature than skeletal muscle in the range 10-15°C It was postulated that the level of thin filament activation may be decreased by cooling. To investigate this possibility, troponin C (TnC) was partially extracted from both muscle types, thus decreasing the level of thin filament activation independent of temperature and, at least in skeletal muscle fibers, decreasing cooperative activation of the thin filament as well. TnC extraction from cardiac muscle reduced the calcium sensitivity of tension less than did extraction of TnC from skeletal muscle. In skeletal muscle the midpoint shift of the tension-pCa curve with altered temperature was greater after TnC extraction than in control fibers. Calcium sensitivity of tension development was proportional to the maximum tension generated in cardiac or skeletal muscle under all conditions studied. Based on these results, we conclude that (a) maximum tension-generating capability and calcium sensitivity of tension development are related, perhaps causally, in fast skeletal and cardiac muscles, and (b) thin filament activation is less cooperative in cardiac muscle than in skeletal muscle, which explains the differential sensitivity of the two fiber types to temperature and TnC extraction. Reducing thin filament cooperativity in skeletal muscle by TnC extraction results in a response to temperature similar to that of control cardiac cells. This study provides evidence that force levels in striated muscle influence the calcium binding affinity of TnC.