Certain protein kinase C (PKC) isoforms, in particular PKCs beta II, delta, and zeta, are activated by insulin stimulation. In primary cultures of skeletal muscle, PKCs beta II and zeta, but not PKC delta, are activated via a phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)-dependent pathway. The purpose of this study was to investigate the possibility that PKC delta may be activated upstream of PI3K by direct interaction with insulin receptor (IR). Experiments were done on primary cultures of newborn rat skeletal muscle, age 5--6 days in vitro. The time course of insulin-induced activation of PKC delta closely paralleled that of IR. Insulin stimulation caused a selective coprecipitation of PKC delta with IR, and these IR immunoprecipitates from insulin-stimulated cells displayed a striking induction of PKC activity due specifically to PKC delta. To examine the involvement of PKC delta in the IR signaling cascade, we used recombinant adenovirus constructs of wild-type (W.T.) or dominant negative (D.N.) PKC delta. Overexpression of W.T.PKC delta induced PKC delta activity and coassociation of PKC delta and IR without addition of insulin. Overexpression of D.N.PKC delta abrogated insulin- induced coassociation of PKC delta and IR. Insulin-induced tyrosine phosphorylation of IR was greatly attenuated in cells overexpressing W.T.PKC delta, whereas in myotubes overexpressing D.N.PKC delta, tyrosine phosphorylation occurred without addition of insulin and was sustained longer than that in control myotubes. In control myotubes IR displayed a low level of serine phosphorylation, which was increased by insulin stimulation. In cells overexpressing W.T.PKC delta, serine phosphorylation was strikingly high under basal conditions and did not increase after insulin stimulation. In contrast, in cells overexpressing D.N.PKC delta, the level of serine phosphorylation was lower than that in nonoverexpressing cells and did not change notably after addition of insulin. Overexpression of W.T.PKC delta caused IR to localize mainly in the internal membrane fractions, and blockade of PKC delta abrogated insulin-induced IR internalization. We conclude that PKC delta is involved in regulation of IR activity and routing, and this regulation may be important in subsequent steps in the IR signaling cascade.