To investigate whether recycling of a labeled amino acid would occur after 24 h of infusion, two groups of normal volunteers were infused with [3H]leucine and alpha-[14C]-ketoisocaproate for 4 h and [2H3]leucine for either 4 or 24 h (groups I and II, respectively). Entry of [2H3 )leucine at steady state into the plasma space was indistinguishable from its infusion rate for group I but 30% higher (P less than 0.001) than this rate for group II, demonstrating significant recycling of label. After discontinuation of the infusions, isotope disappearance from the plasma space was followed for 2 h. The 3H and 14C decay data for both groups suggest that plasma leucine and alpha-ketoisocaproate are derived from a single intracellular pool in the postabsorptive state. In group I, the 3H and 2H labels decayed identically; whereas, in group II, the decay of [2H3]-leucine and alpha-[2H3]ketoisocaproate was slower (P less than 0.01) than the decay of [3H]leucine and alpha-[3H]ketoisocaproate, confirming re-entry of label after a 24-h infusion. Therefore kinetic values calculated from models assuming no recycling of labeled amino acids are most likely not quantitative and must be interpreted with care when flux does not change or decreases.