Regulation of translation of mRNAs coding for specific proteins plays an important role in controlling cell growth, differentiation, and transformation. Two proteins have been implicated in the regulation of specific mRNA translation: eukaryotic initiation factor eIF4E and ribosomal protein S6. Increased phosphorylation of eIF4E as well as its overexpression are associated with stimulation of translation of mRNAs with highly structured 5'-untranslated regions. Similarly, phosphorylation of S6 results in preferential translation of mRNAs containing an oligopyrimidine tract at the 5'-end of the message. In the present study, leucine stimulated phosphorylation of the eIF4E-binding protein, 4E-BP1, in L6 myoblasts, resulting in dissociation of eIF4E from the inactive eIF4E.4E-BP1 complex. The increased availability of eIF4E was associated with a 1.6-fold elevation in ornithine decarboxylase relative to global protein synthesis. Leucine also stimulated phosphorylation of the ribosomal protein S6 kinase, p70(S6k), resulting in increased phosphorylation of S6. Hyperphosphorylation of S6 was associated with a 4-fold increase in synthesis of elongation factor eEF1A. Rapamycin, an inhibitor of the protein kinase mTOR, prevented all of the leucine-induced effects. Thus, leucine acting through an mTOR-dependent pathway stimulates the translation of specific mRNAs both by increasing the availability of eIF4E and by stimulating phosphorylation of S6.