The short-term effects of growth hormone (GH) on skeletal muscle protein synthesis and degradation in normal humans are unknown. We studied seven postabsorptive healthy men (age 18-23 yr) who received GH (0.014 micrograms.kg-1.min-1) via intrabrachial artery infusion for 6 h. The effects of GH on forearm amino acid and glucose balances and on forearm amino acid kinetics [( 3H]Phe and [14C]Leu) were determined after 3 and 6 h of the GH infusion. Forearm deep vein GH rose to 35 +/- 6 ng/ml in response to GH, whereas systemic levels of GH, insulin, and insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) were unchanged. Forearm glucose uptake did not change during the study. After 6 h, GH suppressed forearm net release (3 vs. 6 h) of Phe (P less than 0.05), Leu (P less than 0.01), total branched-chain amino acids (P less than 0.025), and essential neutral amino acids (0.05 less than P less than 0.1). The effect on the net balance of Phe and Leu was due to an increase in the tissue uptake for Phe (71%, P less than 0.05) and Leu (37%, P less than 0.005) in the absence of any significant change in release of Phe or Leu from tissue. In the absence of any change in systemic GH, IGF-I, or insulin, these findings suggest that locally infused GH stimulates skeletal muscle protein synthesis. These findings have important physiological implications for both the role of daily GH pulses and the mechanisms through which GH can promote protein anabolism.