Ryanodine receptors (RyRs) are present in the endoplasmic reticulum of virtually every cell type and serve critical roles, including excitation- contraction (EC) coupling in muscle cells. In skeletal muscle the primary control of RyR-1 (the predominant skeletal RyR isoform) occurs via an interaction with plasmalemmal dihydropyridine receptors (DHPRs), which function as both voltage sensors for EC coupling and as L-type Ca2+ channels (Rios, E., and Bruin, G. (1987) Nature 325, 717-720). In addition to 'receiving' the EC coupling signal from the DHPR, RyR-1 also 'transmits' a retrograde signal that enhances the Ca2+ channel activity of the DHPR (Nakai, J., Dirksen, R. T., Nguyen, H. T., Pessah, I. N., Beam, K. G., and Allen, P. D. (1996) Nature 380, 72-76). A similar kind of retrograde signaling (from RyRs to L-type Ca2+ channels) has also been reported in neurons (Chavis, P., Fagni, L, Lansman, J. B., and Bockaert, J. (1996) Nature 382, 719-722). To investigate the molecular mechanism of reciprocal signaling, we constructed cDNAs encoding chimeras of RyR-1 and RyR-2 (the predominant cardiac RyR isoform) and expressed them in dyspedic myotubes, which lack an endogenous RyR-1. We found that a chimera that contained residues 1,635-2,636 of RyR-1 both mediated skeletal-type EC coupling and enhanced Ca2+ channel function, whereas a chimera containing adjacent RyR- 1 residues (2,659-3,720) was only able to enhance Ca2+ channel function. These results demonstrate that two distinct regions are involved in the reciprocal interactions of RyR-1 with the skeletal DHPR.