In skeletal muscle fibers, the intracellular loop between domains II and III of the α1-subunit of the dihydropyridine receptor (DHPR) may directly activate the adjacent Ca2+ release channel in the sarcoplasmic reticulum. We examined the effects of synthetic peptide segments of this loop on Ca2+ release in mechanically skinned skeletal muscle fibers with functional excitation-contraction coupling. In rat fibers at physiological Mg2+ concentration ([Mg2+]; 1 mM), a 20-residue skeletal muscle DHPR peptide [AS(20); Thr671-Leu690; 30 μM], shown previously to induce Ca2+ release in a triad preparation, caused only small spontaneous force responses in ∼40% of fibers, although it potentiated responses to depolarization and caffeine in all fibers. The COOH-terminal half of AS(20)[AS(10)] induced much larger spontaneous responses but also caused substantial inhibition of Ca2+release to both depolarization and caffeine. Both peptides induced or potentiated Ca2+ release even when the voltage sensors were inactivated, indicating direct action on the Ca2+ release channels. The corresponding 20-residue cardiac DHPR peptide [AC(20); Thr793-Ala812] was ineffective, but its COOH-terminal half [AC(10)] had effects similar to AS(20). In the presence of lower [Mg2+] (0.2 mM), exposure to either AS(20) or AC(10) (30 μM) induced substantial Ca2+ release. Peptide CS (100 μM), a loop segment reported to inhibit Ca2+ release in triads, caused partial inhibition of depolarization-induced Ca2+ release. In toad fibers, each of the A peptides had effects similar to or greater than those in rat fibers. These findings suggest that the A and C regions of the skeletal DHPR II-III loop may have important roles in vivo.