Loss of muscle protein is a serious complication of catabolic diseases and contributes substantially to patients' morbidity and mortality. This muscle loss is mediated largely by the activation of the ubiquitin-proteasome system; however, caspase-3 catalyzes an initial step in this process by cleaving actomyosin into small protein fragments that are rapidly degraded by the proteasome-dependent proteolytic pathway. We hypothesized that X-chromosome linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP), an endogenous caspase-3 inhibitor, would block this first step in the cleavage of actomyosin that would make XIAP a candidate for treating muscle wasting. To determine if XIAP could attenuate muscle protein degradation, we used a recombinant lentivirus (Len-XIAP) encoding the full-length human XIAP cDNA to express XIAP in vivo. In muscle of streptozotocin-treated insulin-deficient mice, total muscle protein degradation, caspase-3 activity, and myofibril destruction were increased while XIAP was decreased. Overexpression of XIAP in these mice attenuated the excessive muscle protein degradation. Increased proteasome activity, caspase-3 activity and myofibril protein breakdown were all reduced. The ability of XIAP to prevent the loss of muscle protein suggests that XIAP could be a therapeutic reagent for muscle atrophy in catabolic diseases.