The sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca(2+) release channel (RyR1) from malignant hyperthermia-susceptible (MHS) porcine skeletal muscle has a decreased sensitivity to inhibition by Mg(2+). This diminished Mg(2+) inhibition has been attributed to a lower Mg(2+) affinity of the inhibition (I) site. To determine whether alterations in the Ca(2+) and Mg(2+) affinity of the activation (A) site contribute to the altered Mg(2+) inhibition, we estimated the Ca(2+) and Mg(2+) affinities of the A- and I-sites of normal and MHS RyR1. Compared with normal SR, MHS SR required less Ca(2+) to half-maximally activate [(3)H]ryanodine binding (K(A,Ca): MHS = 0.17 +/- 0.01 microM; normal = 0.29 +/- 0.02 microM) and more Ca(2+) to half-maximally inhibit ryanodine binding (K(I,Ca): MHS = 519.3 +/- 48.7 microM; normal = 293.3 +/- 24.2 microM). The apparent Mg(2+) affinity constants of the MHS RyR1 A- and I-sites were approximately twice those of the A- and I-sites of the normal RyR1 (K(A,Mg): MHS = 44.36 +/- 4.54 microM; normal = 21.59 +/- 1.66 microM; K(I,Mg): MHS = 660.8 +/- 53.0 microM; normal = 299.2 +/- 24.5 microM). Thus, the reduced Mg(2+) inhibition of the MHS RyR1 compared with the normal RyR1 is due to both an enhanced selectivity of the MHS RyR1 A-site for Ca(2+) over Mg(2+) and a reduced Mg(2+) affinity of the I-site.