The influence of propionate supplementation on the splanchnic metabolism of amino acids (AA) and other N compounds (urea-N and NH3-N) and the supply of AA and NH3-N to the hindlimb was investigated in growing lambs. Six rumen-cannulated and multicatheterised lambs (32·2kg) were fed frozen rye grass at 690kJ metabolisable energy intake/d per kg average metabolic body weight. They were infused intraruminally with a salt solution (control) or with propionate solutions at 0·23mol/l (P1) or 0·41mol/l (P2) infused at a maximal rate of 1·68 (sd 0·057) ml/min according to a repeated Latin square design. The propionate infusion did not increase the net portal appearance of total AA (TAA)-N but increased that of some branched-chain AA (valine and to a lesser extent isoleucine). Simultaneously, the propionate treatment (especially P2) induced an increased TAA utilisation by the liver. This was due mainly to an increased (+79%; P<0·07) utilisation of the essential AA and particularly the branched-chain AA. A stimulation of protein synthesis in the liver is hypothesised since (1) propionate stimulated insulin secretion and (2) utilisation of non-essential AA were less influenced by the propionate treatment in the liver (except for alanine), suggesting that the AA utilised by the liver were directed towards protein synthesis rather than towards oxidation or urea synthesis. At the splanchnic level, the propionate treatment did not have any effect on the TAA, non-essential AA and essential AA, except for a net splanchnic release that was decreased for leucine (P<0·02) and methionine (P<0·01) and increased for threonine (P<0·05). The propionate treatment did not have any effect on the hindlimb uptake of AA (essential and non-essential). As a consequence, even though the propionate treatment induced some major alterations in the splanchnic metabolism of AA, there were no changes in the net AA balance in the hindlimb (and hence probably on muscle growth). The role of the splanchnic tissues in the regulation of the AA supply to the peripheral tissues (such as muscle) therefore appears to be prominent in the regulation of muscle growth. Whether the peripheral tissues regulate their own supply by interacting with the splanchnic tissues (and especially the liver) or the liver is the only regulator of the AA supply to the muscle remains in doubt.