The Ca(2+) uptake properties of the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) were compared between type I and type II fibres of vastus lateralis muscle of young healthy adults. Individual mechanically skinned muscle fibres were exposed to solutions with the free [Ca(2+)] heavily buffered in the pCa range (-log10[Ca(2+)]) 7.3-6.0 for set times and the amount of net SR Ca(2+) accumulation determined from the force response elicited upon emptying the SR of all Ca(2+). Western blotting was used to determine fibre type and the sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum Ca(2+)-ATPase (SERCA) isoform present in every fibre examined. Type I fibres contained only SERCA2 and displayed half-maximal Ca(2+) uptake rate at ∼pCa 6.8, whereas type II fibres contained only SERCA1 and displayed half-maximal Ca(2+) uptake rate at ∼pCa 6.6. Maximal Ca(2+) uptake rate was ∼0.18 and ∼0.21 mmol Ca(2+) (l fibre)(-1) s(-1) in type I and type II fibres, respectively, in good accord with previously measured SR ATPase activity. Increasing free [Mg(2+)] from 1 to 3 mM had no significant effect on the net Ca(2+) uptake rate at pCa 6.0, indicating that there was little or no calcium-induced calcium release occurring through the Ca(2+) release channels during uptake in either fibre type. Ca(2+) leakage from the SR at pCa 8.5, which is thought to occur at least in part through the SERCA, was ∼2-fold lower in type II fibres than in type I fibres, and was little affected by the presence of ADP, in marked contrast to the larger SR Ca(2+) leak observed in rat muscle fibres under the same conditions. The higher affinity of Ca(2+) uptake in the type I human fibres can account for the higher relative level of SR Ca(2+) loading observed in type I compared to type II fibres, and the SR Ca(2+) leakage characteristics of the human fibres suggest that the SERCAs are regulated differently from those in rat and contribute comparatively less to resting metabolic rate.