The mechanism of the inhibitory effect of 2,3-butanedione 2-monoxime (BDM) on contraction of frog skeletal muscles was studied using skinned fibres and aequorin-injected intact fibres. The tension development of skinned fibres directly activated with calcium was strongly inhibited by BDM. This agent also had effects on the sarcoplasmic reticulum in the skinned preparations, suppressing the calcium pump function and enhancing the activity of the 'calcium-induced calcium release' mechanism. In electrically stimulated intact fibres, although BDM slightly suppressed the elevation of the intracellular calcium ion concentration, this effect was so weak that it would not explain the strong inhibitory effect of the agent on the tension development by the intact fibres. It was concluded that the tension reducing effect of BDM on intact fibres was due mainly to its direct action on the contractile system. The mode of this action of BDM was further examined with skinned fibres in view of its effects on the maximum shortening speed and isometric tension in low MgATP environments.