Insulin is released into the circulation early during fetal life, but the physiological significance of the hormone in the fetus is still unclear. The present study was undertaken to evaluate the possible effects of insulin on the protein metabolism of skeletal and heart muscle during the perinatal period in the rat. When incubating hemidiaphragms in a bicarbonate buffer, 0.1 U/ml ox insulin failed to enhance the incorporation of leucine-4,5–<sup>3</sup> H into muscle protein before birth and during the immediate neonatal period. From 3 days of age onwards a stimulatory effect of insulin on protein synthesis was constantly observed. While insulin thus was ineffective in promoting protein synthesis in hemidiaphragms before the third postnatal day, it significantly enhanced the synthesis in heart muscle at an earlier stage of development. Insulin stimulated the uptake of α-aminoisobutyric acid-1-<sup>14</sup>C into the diaphragm muscle during late fetal life as well as through the early neonatal period. The role of insulin in protein metabolism during fetal life may thus be limited to the augmentation of amino acid transport in skeletal and heart muscle and to a stimulatory effect on protein synthesis only in certain tissue(s), e.g. heart muscle.