To examine the molecular mechanism of insulin receptor trafficking, we investigated the intracellular signaling molecules that regulate this process in Rat1 fibroblasts overexpressing insulin receptors. Cellular localization of insulin receptors was assessed by confocal laser microscopy with indirect immunofluorescence staining. Insulin receptors were visualized diffusely in the basal state. Insulin treatment induced the change of insulin receptor localization to perinuclear compartment. This insulin-induced insulin receptor trafficking was not affected by treatment of the cells with PI3-kinase inhibitor (wortmannin), whereas treatment with MEK [mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase-Erk kinase] inhibitor (PD98059) partly inhibited the process in a dose-dependent manner. Interestingly, treatment with both wortmannin and PD98059 almost completely inhibited insulin receptor trafficking. The functional importance of PI3-kinase and MAP kinase in the trafficking process was directly assessed by using single cell microinjection analysis. Microinjection of p85-SH2 and/or catalytically inactive MAP kinase ([K71A]Erk1) GST fusion protein gave the same results as treatment with wortmannin and PD98059. Furthermore, to determine the crucial step for the requirement of PI3-kinase and MAP kinase pathways, the effect of wortmannin and PD98059 on insulin receptor endocytosis was studied. Insulin internalization from the plasma membrane and subsequent insulin degradation were not affected by treatment with wortmannin and PD98059. In contrast, insulin receptor down-regulation from the cell surface and insulin receptor degradation, after prolonged incubation with insulin, were markedly impaired by the treatment. These results suggest that PI3-kinase and MAP kinase pathways synergistically regulate insulin receptor trafficking at a step subsequent to the receptor internalization.