Muscle glutamine concentration ([GLN]) and protein synthesis rate (Ks) have been examined in vivo in well-fed, protein-deficient, starved, and endotoxemic rats. With protein deficiency (8 or 5% casein diet), [GLN] fell from 7.70 to 5.58 and 3.56 mmol/kg in the 8 and 5% diet groups, with Ks falling from 15.42 to 9.1 and 6.84%/day. Three-day starvation reduced [GLN] and Ks to 2.38 mmol/kg and 5.6%/day, respectively. In all these groups food intakes and insulin were generally well maintained (except in the starved group), whereas free 3,5,3'-triiodothyronine (T3) was depressed in the starved and 5% protein group. The E. coli lipopolysaccharide endotoxin (3 mg/kg) reduced [GLN] to 5.85 and 4.72 mmol/kg and Ks to 10.5 and 9.10%/day in two well-fed groups. Insulin levels were increased, and free T3 levels fell. Combined protein deficiency and endotoxemia further reduced [GLN] and Ks to 1.88 mmol/kg and 4.01%/day, respectively, in the 5% protein rats. Changes in both ribosomal activity (KRNA) and concentration (RNA/protein) contributed to the fall in Ks in malnutrition and endotoxemia, although reductions in the RNA concentration were most marked with protein deficiency and reductions in the KRNA dominated the response to the endotoxin. The changes in [GLN] and Ks were highly correlated as were [GLN] and both KRNA and the RNA concentration, and these relationships were unique to glutamine. These relationships could reflect sensitivity of glutamine transport and protein synthesis to the same regulatory influences, and the particular roles of insulin and T3 are discussed, as well as any direct influence of glutamine on protein synthesis.