Insulin receptor substrate-2-deficient (IRS-2(-/-)) mice develop type 2 diabetes. We have investigated the molecular mechanisms by which IRS-2(-/-) immortalized brown adipocytes showed an impaired response to insulin in inducing GLUT4 translocation and glucose uptake. IRS-2-associated phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) activity was blunted in IRS-2(-/-) cells, total PI 3-kinase activity being reduced by 30%. Downstream, activation of protein kinase C (PKC) zeta was abolished in IRS-2(-/-) cells. Reconstitution with retroviral IRS-2 restores IRS-2/PI 3-kinase/PKC zeta signalling, as well as glucose uptake. Wild-type cells expressing a kinase-inactive mutant of PKC zeta lack GLUT4 translocation and glucose uptake. Our results support the essential role played by PKC zeta in the insulin resistance and impaired glucose uptake observed in IRS-2-deficient brown adipocytes.