We studied the developmental changes in hepatic protein synthesis in suckling rats between postpartum d 1 and 28 and investigated the effect of fasting for 10 or 18 h on hepatic protein turnover at postpartum d 5, 10, 16, and 28. Fractional protein synthesis rates (KS, %/d) were measured in vivo using a flooding dose of L-[4-3H]phenylalanine. Although hepatic KS and translation efficiency (protein synthesis/unit RNA) were significantly higher at postpartum d 28 than d 1, the pattern of change was biphasic: KS and translational efficiency were higher at d 10 and 28 than at d 5 and 16. The largest increase in KS and translational efficiency occurred during the period normally associated with weaning (between postpartum d 16 and 28). At all stages of development, the KS and translational efficiency in fasted rats were significantly lower than those in control (fed) rats, although the relative decline in both measurements was largest at postpartum d 10. The absolute rates of hepatic protein synthesis declined to similar levels on d 5, 10, and 16 after 10 h of fasting and changed little after 18 h of fasting; this level was significantly higher at postpartum d 28. Our results suggest that postnatal development in suckling rats was marked by a biphasic pattern in the rates of hepatic protein synthesis, which increased during the neonatal and weaning periods. The relative changes in the synthesis and loss of hepatic protein in response to fasting were greater during the neonatal than during the late suckling and weaning periods.