Overexpression studies have shown that the small heat shock proteins (sHSP) protect the myocardium from ischemia-reperfusion (I/R)-induced damage. However, gene deletion studies are necessary to demonstrate whether sHSPs are required for protection. The genes for alphaB-crystallin (alphaBC) and HSPB2, two sHSPs that are expressed in high levels in the heart, are in close proximity to one another; as a result, both genes were disrupted in a recently generated knockout (KO) mouse line. The alphaBC/HSPB2 KO mouse line is currently the only model that features disruption of sHSPs normally expressed in the heart. Accordingly, we examined the cardiac morphology, function, and response to I/R-induced stress in alphaBC-HSPB2 KO mice. Initial gross, light microscopic and echocardiographic characterization showed that the morphological and functional properties of hearts from adult KO mice were indistinguishable from age-matched wild-type (WT) mice. Electron microscopy showed that, compared with WT mouse hearts, KO mouse heart sarcomeres were relatively normal. Isolated perfused KO mouse hearts displayed normal contractility; however, when compared with WT, after I/R, KO mouse hearts exhibited a twofold reduction in contractile recovery, as well as increased necrosis and apoptosis. Additionally, when compared with WT, KO mouse hearts exhibited 43% less reduced glutathione, which is known to protect from I/R-induced damage. Thus, whereas neither alphaBC nor HSPB2 is essential for myocardial development and function under nonstressful conditions, one or both are required for maximal functional recovery and protection from I/R-induced necrosis and apoptosis.