The impact of nutrients on gene expression in mammals has become an important area of research. Nevertheless, the current understanding of the amino acid-dependent control of gene expression is limited. Because amino acids have multiple and important functions, their homoeostasis has to be finely maintained. However, amino-acidaemia can be affected by certain nutritional conditions or various forms of stress. It follows that mammals have to adjust several of their physiological functions involved in the adaptation to amino acid availability by regulating the expression of numerous genes. The aim of the present review is to examine the role of amino acids in regulating mammalian gene expression and protein turnover. It has been reported that some genes involved in the control of growth or amino acid metabolism are regulated by amino acid availability. For instance, limitation of several amino acids greatly increases the expression of the genes encoding insulin-like growth factor binding protein-1, CHOP (C/EBP homologous protein, where C/EBP is CCAAT/enhancer binding protein) and asparagine synthetase. Elevated mRNA levels result from both an increase in the rate of transcription and an increase in mRNA stability. Several observations suggest that the amino acid regulation of gene expression observed in mammalian cells and the general control process described in yeast share common features. Moreover, amino acid response elements have been characterized in the promoters of the CHOP and asparagine synthetase genes. Taken together, the results discussed in the present review demonstrate that amino acids, by themselves, can, in concert with hormones, play an important role in the control of gene expression.