The purpose of this study was to investigate the magnitude and time course for changes in muscle protein synthesis (MPS) after a single bout of resistance exercise. Two groups of six male subjects performed heavy resistance exercise with the elbow flexors of one arm while the opposite arm served as a control. MPS from exercised (ex) and control (con) biceps brachii was assessed 4 (group A) and 24 h (group B) postexercise by the increment in L-[1-13C]leucine incorporation into muscle biopsy samples. In addition, RNA capacity and RNA activity were determined to assess whether transcriptional and/or translational processes affected MPS. MPS was significantly elevated in biceps of the ex compared with the con arms of both groups (group A, ex 0.1007 +/- 0.0330 vs. con 0.067 +/- 0.0204%/h; group B ex 0.0944 +/- 0.0363 vs. con 0.0452 +/- 0.0126%/h). RNA capacity was unchanged in the ex biceps of both groups relative to the con biceps, whereas RNA activity was significantly elevated in the ex biceps of both groups (group A, ex 0.19 +/- 0.10 vs. con 0.12 +/- 0.05 micrograms protein.h-1.microgram-1 total RNA; group B, ex 0.18 +/- 0.06 vs. con 0.08 +/- 0.02 micrograms protein.h-1.microgram-1 total RNA). The results indicate that a single bout of heavy resistance exercise can increase biceps MPS for up to 24 h postexercise. In addition, these increases appear to be due to changes in posttranscriptional events.