Chronic renal failure (CRF) is associated with resistance to the growth-promoting and anabolic actions of growth hormone (GH). In rats with CRF induced by partial renal ablation, 7 days of GH treatment had a diminished effect on weight gain and hepatic IGF-1 and IGFBP-1 mRNA levels, compared with sham-operated pair-fed controls. To assess whether GH resistance might be due to altered signal transduction, activation of the JAK-STAT pathway was studied 10 or 15 minutes after intravenous injection of 5 mg/kg GH or vehicle. Hepatic GH receptor (GHR) mRNA levels were significantly decreased in CRF, but GHR protein abundance and GH binding to microsomal and plasma membranes was unaltered. JAK2, STAT1, STAT3, and STAT5 protein abundance was also unchanged. However, GH-induced tyrosine phosphorylation of JAK2, STAT5, and STAT3 was 75% lower in the CRF animals. Phosphorylated STAT5 and STAT3 were also diminished in nuclear extracts. The expression of the suppressor of cytokine signaling-2 (SOCS-2) was increased twofold in GH-treated CRF animals, and SOCS-3 mRNA levels were elevated by 60% in CRF, independent of GH treatment. In conclusion, CRF causes a postreceptor defect in GH signal transduction characterized by impaired phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of GH-activated STAT proteins, which is possibly mediated, at least in part, by overexpression of SOCS proteins.