Insulin regulates the expression of more than 150 genes, indicating that this is a major action of this hormone. At least eight distinct consensus insulin response sequence (IRSs) have been defined through which insulin can regulate gene transcription. These include the serum response element, the activator protein 1 ('AP-1') motif, the Ets motif, the E-box motif and the thyroid transcription factor 2 ('TTF-2') motif. All of these IRSs mediate stimulatory effects of insulin on gene transcription. In contrast, an element with the consensus sequence T(G/A)TTT(T/G)(G/T), which we refer to as the phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK)-like motif, mediates the inhibitory effect of insulin on transcription of the genes encoding PEPCK, insulin-like-growth-factor-binding protein 1 (IGFBP-1), tyrosine aminotransferase and the glucose-6-phosphatase (G6Pase) catalytic subunit. The forkhead transcription factor FKHR has recently been shown to bind this PEPCK-like IRS motif and a model has been proposed in which insulin inhibits gene transcription by stimulating the phosphorylation and nuclear export of FKHR. Our results suggest that this model is consistent with the action of insulin on transcription of the gene encoding IGFBP-1 but not that of the G6Pase catalytic subunit. Thus, even though the IRSs in both promoters seem identical, they are functionally distinct. In addition, in the G6Pase catalytic subunit promoter, hepatocyte nuclear factor 1 ('HNF-1'), acts as an accessory factor to enhance the effect of insulin mediated through the IRS.