In earlier studies with pigs the P-adrenergic agonist Ro 16·8714 ((3-AG) enhanced the efficiency of nitrogen (N) retention. Therefore effects of Ro 16·8714 were studied on growth rate, body composition, N, fat and energy retention in pigs fed isoenergetically, but given different amounts of protein (112 or 138 g/kg diet) without (groups LP and NP) or with 60 mg Ro 16·8714 per kg diet (groups LPP and NPP) from 60 to 100 kg live weight. Weight gain (898, 927, 855 and 810 g/day in NP, NPp, LP and LPp) decreased, whereas food: gain ratio (2·94, 2·82, 3·04 and 3·24 kg/kg in NP, NPP, LP and LPP) was increased by low protein intake (P < 0·05) and both weight gain and food conversion were modified by the interaction (P × P) of protein intake and Ro 16·8714 (P < 0·05). Killing-out proportion (820, 830, 830 and 830 g/kg in groups NP, NPp, LP and LPP) was modified by protein intake and Ro 16·8714 (P < 0·05). Carcass growth rate (760, 814, 748 and 723 g/day in NP, NPP, LP and LPP) was modified by protein intake and by P × p (P < 0·05), while non-carcass growth rate (90, 77, 76 and 56 g/day in NP, NPP, LP and LPP) was changed by protein intake and by Ro 16·8714 (P < 0·05). Compared with NP, weights of kidneys (−0·025 kg), small intestine (−0·26 kg) and large intestine (−0·17 kg) were decreased by low protein feeding, and weights of heart, spleen and stomach decreased in response to Ro 16·8714 (-002, -0·02 and -0·06 kg; P < 0·05) while both low protein intake and Ro 16·8714 reduced liver weight (−0·12 and −0·23 kg, respectively; P < 0·05) and blood volume obtained at slaughter (-0·12 and -0·23 kg; P < 0·05). Carcass N (1813, 1970, 1786 and 1825 g in NP NPp, LP and LPP) increased in response to Ro 16-8714, but was reduced by low protein intake (P < 0·05), while noncarcass N (330, 309, 312 and 285 g in NP, NPp, LP and LPP) was decreased by both low protein intake and Ro 16-8714 (P < 0·01). Carcass and non-carcass fat (22·1, 19·9, 23·4 and 23·0 kg, respectively 1·51, 1·41, 1·59 and 1·68 kg in NP, NPp, LP and LPP) increased with low protein feeding (P < 0·05), but were not significantly influenced by Ro 16·8714. The efficiency of N retention (295, 363, 321 and 327 g/kg N retained: N intake in NP, NPp, LP and LPP) was enhanced by Ro 16·8714 (P > 0·05) whereas the efficiency of energy retention was not influenced by Ro 16·8714 and protein intake. In conclusion, an adequate intake of protein is necessary for optimum expression of many, but not all, effects of the P-adrenergic agonist Ro 16·8714.