1. The effects of a single dose of ethanol (75 mmol/kg body weight) on rates of muscle protein synthesis were examined in young rats. Fractional rates of protein synthesis were measured in the soleus, plantaris, gastrocnemius, diaphragm and stomach by the large ‘flooding-dose’ technique.

2. After 150 min, the fractional synthesis rates of all muscles were reduced by 15–35%. Skeletal muscles containing a predominance of anaerobic (fast-twitch, type II) fibres showed greater changes when compared with skeletal muscles with a predominance of aerobic (slow-twitch, type I) fibres.

3. Gastrocnemius muscles were separated into sarcoplasmic, stromal and myofibrillar protein fractions. Protein synthesis was reduced similarly in all fractions by ethanol treatment, by approximately 30%.

4. As skeletal muscle mass comprises 40% of body weight, the responses have important physiological implications and may also be responsible for the muscle atrophy observed in alcoholic patients.

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