Fura-2 was used to estimate myoplasmic [Ca2+] in intact fibers and fiber segments from normal and diseased human muscles. Small muscle bundles (20-50 fibers) were loaded with the membrane-permeant form of the dye (Fura-2 AM). High-performance liquid chromatography was utilized to study the ability of these cells to hydrolyze Fura-2 AM. Immediately after the 30 min loading period, Fura-2 (the Ca2+ indicator) was the predominant form of the dye in all preparations and the concentration within these fibers remained stable for over 4 1 2 hours. In addition, the resting myoplasmic [Ca2+] in fiber segments from normal subjects and those susceptible to malignant hyperthermia were the same. However, halothane administration (1.5%) induced correlated increases in myoplasmic [Ca2+] and force only in fibers from the susceptible patients. In contrast, caffeine administration causes correlated increases in myoplasmic [Ca2+] and force in both types of muscle, but lower concentrations were needed to do so in the fibers from the susceptible patients. The effects of halothane and caffeine were reversible. We conclude that Fura-2 can be used successfully to estimate resting levels and changes in myoplasmic [Ca2+] in human skeletal muscle.