In this review, potential roles for the endogenous sphingolipid, sphingosine, and its derivatives are described for muscle cells. Sphingosine modulates the function of important calcium channels in muscle, including the ryanodine receptor (RyR) calcium release channel of the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR). Sphingosine blocks calcium release through the SR ryanodine receptor and reduces the activity of single skeletal muscle RyR channels reconstituted into planar lipid bilayers. Sphingosine-blocked calcium release is coincident with the inhibitory effects of sphingosine on [3H]ryanodine binding to the RyR. The sphingomyelin signal transduction pathway has also been identified in both skeletal and cardiac muscle. A neutral form of sphingomyelinase (nSMase) enzyme has been localized to the junctional transverse tubule membrane. The high turnover of the SMase is responsible for the production of ceramide and sphingosine. HPLC analyses indicate that significant resting levels of sphingosine are present in muscle tissue. A model of excitation-contraction coupling is presented suggesting a potential role for this endogenous sphingolipid in normal muscle function. Putative roles for sphingolipid mediators in skeletal muscle dysfunction are also discussed. We hypothesize that sphingosine plays important roles in malignant hyperthermia and during the development of muscle fatigue.