It is well accepted that inhibition of the Na,K-ATPase in the heart, through effects on the Na/Ca exchanger, raises the intracellular Ca2+ concentration and strengthens cardiac contraction. However, the contribution that individual isoforms make to this calcium regulatory role is unknown. Assessing the phenotypes of mouse hearts with genetically reduced levels of Na,K-ATPase alpha 1 or alpha 2 isoforms clearly demonstrates different functional roles for these isoforms in vivo. Heterozygous alpha 2 hearts are hypercontractile as a result of increased calcium transients during the contractile cycle. In contrast, heterozygous alpha 1 hearts are hypocontractile. The different functional roles of these two isoforms are further demonstrated since inhibition of the alpha 2 isoform with ouabain increases the contractility of heterozygous alpha 1 hearts. These results definitively illustrate a specific role for the alpha 2 Na,K-ATPase isoform in Ca2+ signaling during cardiac contraction.