The present studies were performed to test the hypothesis that the liver, by increasing the synthesis of specific plasma proteins during the absorption of an amino acid meal, may play an important role in the temporary "storage" of ingested essential amino acids and to explore the effects of glucocorticosteroids and recombinant human growth hormone (rhGH) on these processes. The fractional synthetic rates of albumin and fibrinogen were determined using simultaneous infusions of intravenous [1-14C]leucine and intraduodenal [4,5-3H]leucine after 22 h fasting and during absorption of glucose and amino acids in four groups of normal subjects treated for 1 wk with placebo, prednisone (0.8 mg.kg-1.day-1), rhGH (0.1 mg.kg-1.day-1), or combined treatment. When compared with the fasted state and independent of the route of tracer delivery and hormonal treatment, albumin, but not fibrinogen, synthesis increased (P < 0.0001) during absorption of a mixed glucose amino acid meal in all groups. This increase in albumin synthesis accounted for 28% of the increase in whole body protein synthesis associated with feeding and for 24, 22, and 14% in the prednisone, rhGH, and combined treatment groups, respectively. These data suggest that the stimulation of albumin synthesis observed during feeding prevents irreversible oxidative losses of a significant fraction of ingested essential amino acids and may serve as a vehicle to capture excess dietary amino acids and transport them to peripheral tissues to sustain local protein synthesis.