We studied the influence of vitamin E on intramuscular collagen characteristics and on metacarpal growth plate evolution in suckling lambs. Twenty-four 5-d-old Ile de France suckling male lambs were divided into four equal weight groups, and weekly i.m. injections of DL-alpha-tocopheryl acetate (Control group, 0 IU; Group 1, 625 IU; Group 2, 1,000 IU; and Group 3, 1,500 IU) were given until the lambs were 33 d old. Blood samples were withdrawn for plasma alpha-tocopherol, cholesterol, and triglyceride analyses when the lambs were slaughtered at 40 d of age. Hot carcass weight, metacarpal and metatarsal bone characteristics, and metacarpal growth plate width were measured. After 24 h at 2 to 4 degrees C, semitendinosus muscles were removed for intramuscular collagen analyses. Weight was not influenced by treatment, but lambs in Group 1 had a higher (P < .01) intramuscular collagen content than the other groups. A positive quadratic correlation was found between total collagen and vitamin E doses (r = .511; P < .05). Amount and percentage of soluble collagen increased in muscles of all three vitamin E-treated groups compared with the control group. However, hydroxylysyl pyridinoline concentration decreased with vitamin E injection, but the difference compared to control lambs was only significant for the group injected with 1,000 IU. Amount of soluble collagen was strongly correlated to total collagen concentration (r = .879; P < .0001). It was also related to the alpha-tocopherol/(cholesterol + triglycerides) ratio in plasma (r = .431; P < .04). However, the correlation between soluble collagen percentage and alpha-tocopherol concentration in plasma was not significant (r = .369; P < .08). Bone length, weight, and diameter did not change, but the thickness of metacarpal growth plate increased as the DL-alpha-tocopheryl acetate dose increased; in Groups 2 and 3, the growth plate was significantly wider than in Group 1 and the controls. Growth plate width correlated with alpha-tocopherol/(cholesterol + triglycerides) ratio in plasma (r = .481; P < .02).