The role of protein synthesis in memory consolidation is well established for hippocampus-dependent learning and synaptic plasticity. Whether protein synthesis is required for motor skill learning is unknown. We hypothesized that skill learning is interrupted by protein synthesis inhibition (PSI). We intended to test whether local protein synthesis in motor cortex or cerebellum is required during skill acquisition and consolidation. Anisomycin (ANI; 100 microg/microl in 1 microl of PBS) injected into motor cortex, posterior parietal cortex, or cerebellum produced 84.0 +/- 1.44% (mean +/- SEM), 85.9 +/- 2.31%, and 87.3 +/- 0.17% of PSI 60 min after administration, respectively. In motor cortex, protein synthesis was still reduced at 24 hr (72.0 +/- 4.68% PSI) but normalized at 48 hr after a second injection given 24 hr after the first. To test for the effects of PSI on learning of a skilled reaching task, ANI was injected into motor cortex contralateral to the trained limb or into ipsilateral cerebellum immediately after daily training sessions 1 and 2. Two control groups received motor cortex injections of vehicle or ANI injections into contralateral parietal cortex. Control and cerebellar animals showed a sigmoid learning curve, which plateaued after day 4. PSI in motor cortex significantly reduced learning during days 1-4. Thereafter, when protein synthesis normalized, learning was reinitiated. ANI injections into motor cortex did not induce a motor deficit, because animals injected during the performance plateau did not deteriorate. This demonstrates that motor skill learning depends on de novo synthesis of proteins in motor cortex after training.