Chronic interleukin (IL)-1 administration is associated with negative nitrogen balance and the loss of lean body mass. To elucidate the molecular mechanism(s) by which IL-1 modulates protein metabolism in muscle, we investigated the effects of chronic (6 day) IL-1α infusion on protein synthesis in individual muscles (gastrocnemius, soleus, heart) compared with saline-infused control rats. IL-1 significantly decreased muscle weight, protein content, and the rate of protein synthesis in gastrocnemius (fast-twitch muscle). IL-1 had no effect on these parameters in the heart, whereas only the rate of protein synthesis was reduced in soleus (slow-twitch muscle). The reduction in gastrocnemius protein synthesis was not the result of a decrease in total RNA content, but was associated with a diminished translational efficiency. The diminished translational efficiency correlated with a 40% reduction in the e-subunit of eukaryotic initiation factor 2B (eIF2Bε) in gastrocnemius from IL-1 -treated animals. However, the content of the α-subunit of eIF2 (eIF2α) was unaffected. In contrast, the eIF2α content in heart was increased by IL-1, although eIF2Bε levels were unchanged. Reductions in skeletal muscle protein synthesis were not associated with a concomitant reduction in circulating or tissue content of insulin-like growth factor I. In summary, the IL-1-induced decrease in gastrocnemius protein synthesis appears to be regulated at the level of RNA translation via a reduction in eIF2Bε. These findings support a regulatory role for IL-1 as a mediator of muscle protein synthesis and the alterations in body composition observed in catabolic states where this cytokine is overexpressed.