Mutations in the ATP2A1 gene, encoding isoform 1 of the sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase (SERCA1), are one cause of Brody disease, characterized in humans by exercise-induced contraction of fast twitch (type II) skeletal muscle fibers. In an attempt to create a model for Brody disease, the mouse ATP2A1 gene was targeted to generate a SERCA1-null mutant mouse line. In contrast to humans, term SERCA1-null mice had progressive cyanosis and gasping respiration and succumbed from respiratory failure shortly after birth. The percentage of affected homozygote SERCA1-/- mice was consistent with predicted Mendelian inheritance. A survey of multiple organs from 10-, 15-, and 18-day embryos revealed no morphological abnormalities, but analysis of the lungs in term mice revealed diffuse congestion and epithelial hypercellularity and studies of the diaphragm muscle revealed prominent hypercontracted regions in scattered fibers and increased fiber size variability. The Vmax of Ca2+ transport activity in mutant diaphragm and skeletal muscle was reduced by 80% compared with wild-type muscle, and the contractile response to electrical stimulation under physiological conditions was reduced dramatically in mutant diaphragm muscle. No compensatory responses were detected in analysis of mRNAs encoding other Ca2+ handling proteins or of protein levels. Expression of ATP2A1 is largely restricted to type II fibers, which predominate in normal mouse diaphragm. The absence of SERCA1 in type II fibers, and the absence of compensatory increases in other Ca2+ handling proteins, coupled with the marked increase in contractile function required of the diaphragm muscle to support postnatal respiration, can account for respiratory failure in term SERCA1-null mice.