Creatine kinase (CK) was analyzed from skeletal muscle of wood frogs, Rana sylvatica, a species that survives natural whole body freezing during the winter months. Muscle CK activity increased by 35% and apparent K(m) creatine decreased by 29% when frogs froze. Immunoblotting analysis showed that this activity increase was not due to a change in total CK protein. Frog muscle CK was regulated by reversible protein phosphorylation; in vitro incubations with (32)P-ATP under conditions that facilitated the actions of various protein kinases (PKA, PKG, PKC, CaMK or AMPK) resulted in immunoprecipitation of (32)P-labeled CK. Furthermore, incubations that stimulated CaMK or AMPK altered CK kinetics. Incubation under conditions that facilitated protein phosphatases (PP2B or PP2C) reversed these effects. Phosphorylation of CK increased activity, whereas dephosphorylation decreased activity. Ion-exchange chromatography revealed that two forms of CK with different phosphorylation states were present in muscle; low versus high phosphate forms dominated in muscle of control versus frozen frogs, respectively. However, CK from control versus frozen frogs showed no differences in susceptibility to urea denaturation or sensitivity to limited proteolysis by thermolysin. The increased activity, increased substrate affinity and altered phosphorylation state of CK in skeletal muscle from frozen frogs argues for altered regulation of CK under energy stress in ischemic frozen muscle.