We have investigated the effects of 24 h human recombinant growth hormone (hGH) administration on leg muscle glutamine exchange and protein kinetics in severely traumatized patients. Muscle amino acid exchange and protein balance were evaluated using the leg arteriovenous balance technique, whereas changes in skeletal muscle free amino acid concentrations were evaluated in biopsy specimens. hGH infusion decreased phenylalanine release from protein degradation by 56 +/- 14%, and the rate of branched chain amino acid catabolism by 51 +/- 10%. Glutamine release from leg muscle was suppressed by 58 +/- 12%. This latter effect was completely accounted for by a hGH-mediated suppression of glutamine synthesis in skeletal muscle. In conclusion, growth hormone administration in trauma patients may restrain protein and amino acid catabolism in skeletal muscle. However, the growth hormone-mediated suppression of glutamine production we have observed in this study could decrease the systemic availability of this amino acid. During growth hormone treatment, this potential side-effect could be prevented by an exogenous glutamine administration.