Loss-of-function mutations in calpain 3 have been shown to cause limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2A (LGMD2A), an autosomal recessive disorder that results in gradual wasting of the muscles of the hip and shoulder areas. Due to the inherent instability of calpain 3, recombinant expression of the full-length enzyme has not been possible, making in vitro analysis of specific LGMD2A-causing mutations difficult. However, because calpain 3 is highly similar in amino acid sequence to calpain 2, the recently solved crystal structure of full-length, Ca2+-bound, calpastatin-inhibited rat calpain 2 has allowed us to model calpain 3 as a Ca2+-bound homodimer. The model revealed three distinct areas of the enzyme that undergo a large conformational change upon Ca2+ binding. Located in these areas are several residues that undergo mutation to cause LGMD2A. We investigated the in vitro effects of six of these mutations by making the corresponding mutations in rat calpain 2. All six mutations examined in this study resulted in a decrease in enzyme activity. All but one of the mutations caused an increased rate of autoproteolytic degradation of the enzyme as witnessed by SDS-PAGE, indicating the decrease in enzyme activity is caused, at least in part, by an increase in the rate of autoproteolytic degradation. The putative in vivo effects of these mutations on calpain 3 activity are discussed with respect to their ability to cause LGMD2A.