Titin (also called connectin) acts as a scaffold for signaling proteins in muscle and is responsible for establishing and maintaining the structure and elasticity of sarcomeres in striated muscle. Several human muscular dystrophies and cardiomyopathies have previously been linked to mutations in the titin gene. This study reports linkage of the runzel homozygous lethal muscular dystrophy in the zebrafish Danio rerio to a genomic interval containing the titin gene. Analysis of the genomic sequence suggests that zebrafish contain two adjacent titin loci. One titin locus lies within the genetic linkage interval and its expression is significantly reduced in runzel mutants by both immunofluorescence and protein electrophoresis. Morpholino downregulation of this same titin locus in wild-type embryos results in decreased muscle organization and mobility, phenocopying runzel mutants. Additional protein analysis demonstrates that, in wild-type zebrafish, titin isoform sizes are rapidly altered during the development of striated muscle, likely requiring a previously unrecognized need for vertebrate sarcomere remodeling to incorporate developmentally regulated titin isoforms. Decreases of affected titin isoforms in runzel mutants during this time correlate with a progressive loss of sarcomeric organization and suggest that the unaffected titin proteins are capable of sarcomerogenesis but not sarcomere maintenance. In addition, microarray analysis of the ruz transcriptome suggests a novel mechanism of dystrophy pathogenesis, involving mild increases in calpain-3 expression and upregulation of heat shock proteins. These studies should lead to a better understanding of titin's role in normal and diseased muscle.