Previous studies have shown that oral administration of leucine to fasted rats results in a preferential increase in liver in the translation of mRNAs containing an oligopyrimidine sequence at the 5'-end of the message (i.e. a TOP sequence). TOP mRNAs include those encoding the ribosomal proteins (rp) and translation elongation factors. In cells in culture, the preponderance of evidence suggests that translation of TOP mRNAs is regulated by the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), a protein kinase that signals through ribosomal protein S6 kinase (S6K1) to rpS6. However, the results of previous studies were recently challenged by several reports suggesting that translation of TOP mRNAs is independent of mTOR, S6K1, and S6 phosphorylation. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the role of mTOR in the stimulation of TOP mRNA translation by leucine in vivo. Fasted rats were treated with the mTOR inhibitor, rapamycin, prior to oral administration of leucine. It was found that rapamycin severely attenuated leucine-induced signaling through mTOR in liver. In addition, rapamycin prevented the enhanced translation of TOP mRNAs in rats administered leucine, as assessed by a decrease in the proportion of TOP mRNAs associated with polysomes (i.e. those mRNAs being actively translated). Instead, in rapamycin-treated rats, ribosomal protein mRNAs accumulated in the fraction containing monosomes (mRNA bound to one ribosome). The results suggest that in liver in vivo, mTOR-dependent signaling is critical for maximal stimulation of TOP mRNA translation.