The study tested the hypothesis that a higher rate of myofibrillar than sarcoplasmic protein synthesis is responsible for the rapid postdifferentiation accumulation of myofibrils and that an inadequate nutrient intake will compromise primarily myofibrillar protein synthesis. Myofibrillar (total and individual) and sarcoplasmic protein synthesis, accretion, and degradation rates were measured in vivo in well-nourished (C) rat pups at 6, 15, and 28 days of age and compared at 6 and 15 days of age with pups undernourished (UN) from birth. In 6-day-old C pups, a higher myofibrillar than sarcoplasmic protein synthesis rate accounted for the greater deposition of myofibrillar than sarcoplasmic proteins. The fractional synthesis rates of both protein compartments decreased with age, but to a greater degree for myofibrillar proteins (-54 vs. -42%). These decreases in synthesis rates were partially offset by reductions in degradation rates, and from 15 days, myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic proteins were deposited in constant proportion to one another. Undernutrition reduced both myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic protein synthesis rates, and the effect was greater at 6 (-25%) than 15 days (-15%). Decreases in their respective degradation rates minimized the effect of undernutrition on sarcoplasmic protein accretion from 4 to 8 days and on myofibrillar proteins from 13 to 17 days. Although these adaptations in protein turnover reduced overall growth of muscle mass, they mitigated the effects of undernutrition on the normal maturational changes in myofibrillar protein concentration.