The response of muscle and liver protein metabolism to either a single or three successive daily injections of an endotoxin (Escherichia coli lipopolysaccharide, serotype 0127 B8; 1 mg/ml, 0.3 mg/100 g body wt.) was studied in vivo in the fed rat, and at 24 and 30 h after endotoxin treatment during fasting. In the fed rats there was a catabolic response in muscle, owing to a 60-100% increase in muscle protein degradation rate, and a 52% fall in the synthesis rate. Although there was a 20% decrease in food intake, the decrease in protein synthesis was to some extent independent of this, since rats treated with endotoxin and fasted also showed a lower rate of muscle protein synthesis, which was in excess of the decrease caused by fasting alone. The mechanism of this decreased protein synthesis involved decreased translational activity, since in both fed and fasted rats there was a decreased rate of synthesis per unit of RNA. This occurred despite the fact that insulin concentrations were either maintained or increased, in the fasted rats, to those observed in fed rats. In the liver total protein mass was increased in the fed rats by 16% at 24 h, and the fractional synthesis rate at that time was increased by 35%. In rats fasted after endotoxin treatment the liver protein mass was not decreased as it was in the control fasted rats, and the fractional synthesis rate was increased by 22%. In both cases the increased synthesis rate reflected an elevated hepatic RNA concentration. The extent of this increase in hepatic protein synthesis was sufficient at one point to compensate for the fall in estimated muscle protein synthesis, so that the sum total in the two tissues was maintained.