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We investigated whether the prevention of glucocorticoid-induced muscle atrophy by glutamine infusion is associated with alterations in serum levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I and its binding proteins (IGFBPs). Hormone (cortisol acetate [CA], 100 mg/kg body wt/day) and vehicle (carboxymethyl cellulose [CMC])-treated female rats were infused with either saline or glutamine (240 mM, 0.75 ml/hr) for a 7-day period. Glutamine infusion prevented over 70% of the skeletal muscle mass loss due to the glucocorticoid injections. Serum IGF-I concentrations, which were measured by radioimmunoassay (RIA) after acid solid-phase extraction of IGFBPs, were not significantly different among groups (range of means: 373-395 ng/ml). Saline/CA treatment resulted in a 2-fold increase in circulating levels of IGFBP-3 (38- to 50-kDa bands from ligand blotting measurements) versus the saline/CMC group. Levels of 30- to 32-kDa bands were increased by ∼3-fold in the CA-treated rats. Immunoprecipitation studies suggested that the increase in the 30- to 32-kDa binding proteins were not due to elevated levels of IGFBP-1, -2, or -5. None of the treatments significantly modified circulating levels of IGFBP-4 (24 kDa). Glutamine infusion did not reverse the effects of glucocorticoids on circulating levels of 38- to 50- and 30- to 32-kDa IGFBPs. We conclude that the attenuation of glucocorticoid-induced muscle atrophy by glutamine infusion is not associated with changes in circulating levels of IGF-I or IGFBPs.