Young rats were injected with either ethanol (75 mmol/kg), acetaldehyde (2.8 mmol/kg) or isovolumetric amounts of NaCl (0.15 mol/l, i.e. controls) with or without inhibitors of alcohol dehydrogenase (4-methylpyrazole) or aldehyde dehydrogenase (cyanamide). After 2.5 hr, fractional rates of protein synthesis (i.e. ks) in the soleus (Type I fibre-rich) and plantaris (Type II fibre-rich) muscles were measured. Ethanol alone reduced ks in both soleus and plantaris muscles, by approx. 25%. Pretreatment of ethanol-dosed rats with 4-methylpyrazole raised plasma ethanol levels and reduced ks in the soleus and plantaris by approx. 35%. Pretreatment of ethanol-dosed rats with cyanamide also increased plasma ethanol and further potentiated the effects of ethanol by reducing ks in the soleus and plantaris by approx. 65%. Acetaldehyde alone reduced ks by approx. 15%, and this effect was not significantly altered by 4-methylpyrazole pretreatment. In some instances, the plantaris was slightly more sensitive to ethanol and acetaldehyde than the soleus. Similar conclusions were derived when data were expressed relative to either RNA or DNA. The data thus suggest that the ethanol-induced inhibition of skeletal muscle protein synthesis may possibly be independently mediated by both ethanol and acetaldehyde.