Restricting calcium currents is required for correct fiber type specification in skeletal muscle.
Skeletal muscle excitation-contraction (EC) coupling is independent of calcium influx. In fact alternative splicing of the voltage-gated calcium channel CaV1.1 actively suppresses calcium currents in mature muscle. Whether this is necessary for normal development and function of muscle is not known. However, splicing defects causing aberrant expression of the calcium-conducting developmental CaV1.1e splice variant correlate with muscle weakness in myotonic dystrophy. Here we deleted CaV1.1 exon 29 in mice. These mice displayed normal overall motor performance, although grip force and voluntary running were reduced. Continued expression of the developmental CaV1.1e splice variant in adult mice caused increased calcium influx during EC coupling, altered calcium homeostasis, and spontaneous calcium sparklets in isolated muscle fibers. Contractile force was reduced and endurance enhanced. Key regulators of fiber type specification were dysregulated and the fiber type composition was shifted toward slower fibers. In contrast, oxidative enzyme activity and mitochondrial content declined. These findings indicate that limiting calcium influx during skeletal muscle EC coupling is important for the calcium signal's secondary function in the activity-dependent regulation of fiber type composition and to prevent muscle disease.