Proteolysis-inducing factor (PIF), a tumour-produced cachectic factor, induced a dose-dependent decrease in protein synthesis in murine myotubes, together with an increase in phosphorylation of eucaryotic initiation factor 2 (eIF2) on the α-subunit. Both insulin (1 nM) and insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) (13.2 nM) attenuated the depression of protein synthesis by PIF and the increased phosphorylation of eIF2α, by inhibiting the activation (autophosphorylation) of the dsRNA-dependent protein kinase (PKR) by induction of protein phosphatase 1. A low-molecular weight inhibitor of PKR also reversed the depression of protein synthesis by PIF to the same extent, as did insulin and IGF-I. Both insulin and IGF-I-stimulated protein synthesis in the presence of PIF, and this was attenuated by Salubrinal, an inhibitor of phospho eIF2α phosphatase, suggesting that at least part of this action was due to their ability to inhibit phosphorylation of eIF2α. Both insulin and IGF-I also attenuated the induction of protein degradation in myotubes induced by PIF, this effect was also attenuated by Salubrinal. These results suggest an alternative mechanism involving PKR to explain the effect of insulin and IGF-I on protein synthesis and degradation in skeletal muscle in the presence of catabolic factors.