1. The effect of starvation on whole-body protein synthesis and on the contribution of protein synthesis to basal metabolic rate was investigated in young chickens (Expt 1). Strain differences between layer and broiler chickens in whole-body protein synthesis and degradation rates were examined when the birds were starved (Expt 2).
2. In Expt 1, 15-d-old White Leghorn male chickens were used, while in Expt 2 Hubbard (broiler) and White Leghorn (layer) male chickens at 14 d of age were used. They were starved for 4 d, and heat production was determined by carcass analysis after 2 and 4 d of starvation. Whole-body protein synthesis rates were measured on 0, 2 and 4 d of starvation (Expt 1), and on 0 and 4 d of starvation (Expt 2).
3. The results showed that starving reduced whole-body protein synthesis in terms of fractional synthesis rate and the amount synthesized. Whole-body protein degradation was increased by starvation both in terms of fractional synthesis rate and the amount degraded on a per kg body-weight basis.
4. Reduced fractional synthesis rate of protein in the whole body was accounted for by reductions in both protein synthesis per unit RNA and RNA:protein ratio.
5. In the fed state, whole-body protein synthesis and degradation rates, whether expressed as fractional rates or amounts per unit body-weight, tended to be higher in layer than in broiler chickens. In the starved state, the difference in the rate of protein synthesis between the two strains virtually disappeared, while the degradation rates were higher in layer than in broiler birds.
6. Based on the assumed value of 3.56 kJ/g protein synthesized (Waterlow et al. 1978), the heat associated with whole-body protein synthesis in the starved state was calculated to range from 14 to 17% of the basal metabolic rate with no strain difference between layer and broiler chickens.