Taurine occurs in high concentrations in muscle and is implicated in numerous physiological processes, yet its effects on many aspects of contractility remain unclear. Using mechanically skinned segments of human vastus lateralis muscle fibers, we characterized the effects of taurine on sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca2+ accumulation and contractile apparatus properties in type I and type II fibers. Prolonged myoplasmic exposure (>10 min) to taurine substantially increased the rate of accumulation of Ca2+ by the SR in both fiber types, with no change in the maximum amount accumulated; no such effect was found with carnosine. SR Ca2+ accumulation was similar with 10 or 20 mM taurine, but was significantly slower at 5 mM taurine. Cytoplasmic taurine (20 mM) had no detectable effects on the responsiveness of the Ca2+ release channels in either fiber type. Taurine caused a small increase in Ca2+ sensitivity of the contractile apparatus in type I fibers, but type II fibers were unaffected; maximum Ca(2+)-activated force was unchanged in both cases. The effects of taurine on SR Ca2+ accumulation (1) only became apparent after prolonged cytoplasmic exposure, and (2) persisted for some minutes after complete removal of taurine from the cytoplasm, consistent with the hypothesis that the effects were due to an action of taurine from inside the SR. In summary, taurine potentiates the rate of SR Ca2+ uptake in both type I and type II human fibers, possibly via an action from within the SR lumen, with the degree of potentiation being significantly reduced at low physiological taurine levels.