BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE Muscle is the major site for glutamine synthesis via glutamine synthetase (GS). This enzyme is increased 1.5-2 fold in 25-27-mo rats and may be a consequence of aging-induced stress. This stimulation is similar to the induction observed following a catabolic state such as glucocorticoid treatment (6 to 24 months). Although oral glutamine supply regulates the plasma glutamine level, nothing is known if this supplementation is interrupted before the experiment. DESIGN Adult (8-mo) and very old (27-mo) female rats were exposed to intermittent glutamine supplementation for 50 % of their age lifetime. Treated rats received glutamine added to their drinking water and control rats water alone but the effect of glutamine supplementation was only studied 15 days after the last supplementation. RESULTS Glutamine pretreatment discontinued 15 days before the experiment increased plasma glutamine to ~ 0.6 mM, a normal value in very old rats. However, it failed to decrease the up-regulated GS activity in skeletal muscle from very old rats. CONCLUSION Our results suggest that long-term treatment with glutamine started before advanced age but discontinued 15 days before rat sacrifice is effective in increasing plasma glutamine to recover basal adult value and in maintaining plasma glutamine in very old rats, but has no long-lasting effect on the GS activity of skeletal muscle with advanced age.