Five days after thyroidectomy (Tx) or sham-Tx in young male Sprague-Dawley rats, sepsis was induced by cecal ligation and puncture (CLP). Control animals underwent laparotomy and manipulation of the cecum without ligation or puncture. Sixteen hours after CLP or laparotomy, protein synthesis and degradation were measured in incubated extensor digitorum longus (EDL) and soleus (SOL) muscles by determining rate of 14C-phenylalanine incorporation into protein and tyrosine release into incubation medium, respectively. Triiodothyronine (T3) was measured in serum and muscle tissue. Protein synthesis was reduced by 39% and 22% in EDL and SOL, respectively, 16 hours after CLP in sham-Tx rats. The response to sepsis of protein synthesis was abolished in Tx rats. Protein breakdown was increased by 113% and 68% in EDL and SOL, respectively, 16 hours after CLP in sham-Tx animals. The increase in muscle proteolysis during sepsis was blunted in hypothyroid animals and was 42% and 49% in EDL and SOL, respectively. T3 in serum was reduced by sepsis, both in Tx and sham-Tx rats. T3 in muscle, however, was maintained or increased during sepsis. Abolished or blunted response of muscle protein turnover after CLP in hypothyroid animals may reflect a role of thyroid hormones in altered muscle protein metabolism during sepsis. Reduced serum levels of T3, but maintained or increased muscle concentrations of the hormone, suggests that increased T3 uptake by muscle may be one mechanism of low T3 syndrome in sepsis, further supporting the concept of a role for thyroid in meatbolic alterations in muscle during sepsis.