Abstract Ryanodine receptor (RyR), a homotetrameric Ca 2+ release channel, is one of the main actors in the generation of Ca 2+ signals that trigger muscle contraction. Three genes encode three isoforms of RyRs, which have tissue-restricted distribution. RyR1 and RyR2 are typical of muscle cells, with RyR1 originally considered the skeletal muscle type and RyR2 the cardiac type. However, RyR1 and RyR2 have recently been found in numerous other cell types, including, for instance, peripheral B and T lymphocytes. In contrast, RyR3 is widely distributed among cells. RyR1 and RyR2 are localized in a specialized portion of the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR), the terminal cisternae, which is the portion of the SR Ca 2+ store that releases Ca 2+ to control the process of muscle contraction. A specific role for RyR3 has not yet been established: probably, its co-expression with the other RyR isoforms contributes to qualitatively modulate Ca 2+-dependent processes in muscle cells and in neurons. Several mutations in the genes encoding RyR1 and RyR2 have been identified in autosomal dominant diseases of skeletal and cardiac muscle, such as malignant hyperthermia (MH), central core disease (CCD), catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT), and arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia type 2 (ARVD2). More recently, CCD cases with recessive inheritance have also been described. MH is a pharmacogenetic disease, but the others manifest as congenital myopathies. Even if their clinical phenotypes are well established, particularly in skeletal muscle, the molecular mechanisms that generate the conditions are not clear. A number of studies on cellular models have attempted to elucidate the molecular defects associated with the different mutations, but the problem of understanding how mutations in the same gene generate such an array of diverse pathological traits and diseases of widely different degrees of severity is still open. This review will consider the molecular and cellular effects of RyR mutations, summarizing recent data in the literature on Ca 2+ dysregulation, which may lead to a better understanding of the functioning of RyRs.