The mechanisms by which inorganic salts of the trace element vanadium mediate their insulinomimetic effects are not clearly understood and were investigated. We have shown previously that vanadium salts activate mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase activities (PI3-K) via a pathway that does not involve the insulin receptor (IR) tyrosine kinase function [Pandey, S. K., Anand-Srivastava, M. B., and Srivastava, A. K. (1998) Biochemistry 37, 7006-7014]. Herein, we have examined a possible role of PI3-K in the vanadyl sulfate (VS)-mediated increase in the level of ras-MAPK activation as well as the contribution of signaling components upstream to MAPK in this VS response. Treatment of IR-overexpressing cells with VS resulted in an increased level of tyrosine phosphorylation of p44(mapk) (ERK-1) and p42(mapk) (ERK-2) along with stimulation of MAPK, MAPK kinase (MEK), and C-raf-1 activities, and ras activation. Preincubation with wortmannin and LY294002, two structurally and mechanistically different inhibitors of PI3-K, blocked the VS-mediated increase in MAPK activity and phosphorylation of ERK-1 and ERK-2. Furthermore, wortmannin inhibited activation of ras, C-raf-1, and MEK in response to VS. The addition of a farnesyltransferase inhibitor, B581, to cells reduced the level of MAPK activation as well as ERK-1 and ERK-2 phosphorylation stimulated by VS. Finally, VS increased PI3-K activity in ras immunoprecipitates. A VS-mediated increase in p70(s6k) activity was also found to be inhibited by wortmannin. Taken together, these results demonstrate that the insulinomimetic effects of VS may be mediated, in part, by PI3-K-dependent stimulation of the ras-MAPK and p70(s6k) pathways.