Chronic renal failure is associated with an enhanced catabolism of muscle protein. To determine the effect of exercise training and moderate renal insufficiency on net protein catabolism and protein synthesis in isolated epitrochlearis muscles, three-fourth nephrectomized and control rats were exercise trained or remained sedentary. Net muscle protein degradation was determined by measuring the rates of release of phenylalanine and tyrosine. Protein synthesis was determined by measuring the incorporation of [U-14C]phenylalanine into muscle protein. Exercise training reduced the elevated protein degradation of uremia to control levels. In control rats, exercise training had no effect on protein degradation. Exercise training increased alanine release in control rats but did not further increase the elevated alanine release of uremia. Protein synthesis was unaffected by both uremia and exercise training. Exercise training in control and uremic rats moderately increased the responsiveness of muscle to insulin by reducing net protein degradation but did not further enhance the insulin-stimulated increase in protein synthesis. Thus exercise training ameliorates the enhanced muscle protein degradation of moderate renal insufficiency.