Muscle function requires unique structural and metabolic adaptations that can render muscle cells selectively vulnerable, with mutations in some ubiquitously expressed genes causing myopathies but sparing other tissues. We uncovered a muscle cell vulnerability by studying miR-1, a deeply conserved, muscle-specific microRNA whose ablation causes various muscle defects. Using Caenorhabditis elegans, we found that miR-1 represses multiple subunits of the ubiquitous vacuolar adenosine triphosphatase (V-ATPase) complex, which is essential for internal compartment acidification and metabolic signaling. V-ATPase subunits are predicted miR-1 targets in animals ranging from C. elegans to humans, and we experimentally validated this in Drosophila. Unexpectedly, up-regulation of V-ATPase subunits upon miR-1 deletion causes reduced V-ATPase function due to defects in complex assembly. These results reveal V-ATPase assembly as a conserved muscle cell vulnerability and support a previously unknown role for microRNAs in the regulation of protein complexes.