Because the enzymatic regulation of muscle triglyceride metabolism is poorly understood we explored the character and activation of neutral lipase in muscle. Western blotting of isolated rat muscle fibers demonstrated expression of hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL). In incubated soleus muscle epinephrine increased neutral lipase activity by beta-adrenergic mechanisms involving cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA). The increase was paralleled by an increase in glycogen phosphorylase activity and could be abolished by antiserum against HSL. Electrical stimulation caused a transient increase in activity of both neutral lipase and glycogen phosphorylase. The increase in lipase activity during contractions was not influenced by sympathectomy or propranolol. Training diminished the epinephrine induced lipase activation in muscle but enhanced the activation as well as the overall concentration of lipase in adipose tissue. In agreement with the in vitro findings, in adrenalectomized patients an increase in muscle neutral lipase activity was found at the end of prolonged exercise only if epinephrine was infused. In accordance with feedforward regulation of substrate mobilization in exercise, our studies have shown that HSL is present in skeletal muscle cells and is stimulated in parallel with glycogen phosphorylase by both epinephrine and contractions. HSL adapts differently to training in muscle compared with adipose tissue.