Mechanisms of anoxia tolerance were investigated in crucian carp. Rates of protein synthesis were calculated in selected tissues of normoxic and anoxic animals. Exposure to 48 h of anoxia resulted in a significant reduction in protein synthesis in the liver (> 95%), heart (53%), and red and white muscle (52 and 56%, respectively), whereas brain protein synthesis rates were unaffected. Seven days of anoxia produced similar results. After 24 h of recovery from a 48-h anoxic period, protein synthesis rates had virtually returned to normoxic values. The effect of anoxia on the amount of RNA (relative to protein) varied depending on the tissue and also the length of exposure (except in the brain, where it was consistently reduced). However, the effect on RNA translational efficiency was purely tissue specific (i.e., independent of exposure time) and was unaffected in the heart, reduced in the liver and red and white muscle, and increased in the brain. Downregulation of protein synthesis on a tissue-specific basis appears to be a significant mechanism for energy conservation as well as maintaining neural function, thus promoting survival during anoxia.