Adipose tissue is a major secretory and endocrine active organ producing a variety of bioactive proteins that may regulate energy metabolism and insulin sensitivity. In several studies, we have already shown that adipocyte-secretory products induce skeletal muscle insulin resistance. However, the precise nature of these factors has remained elusive. Human adipocytes were found to secrete various cytokines including IL-6, IL-8, macrophage inflammatory protein-1alpha/beta, and monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1). Among these candidates, MCP-1 alone impaired insulin signaling in skeletal muscle cells at doses similar to its physiological plasma concentrations (200 pg/ml), whereas IL-6, IL-8, and macrophage inflammatory protein-1beta were effective at very high concentrations only. In addition, MCP-1 significantly reduced insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in the myocytes. Expression analysis of chemokine receptors in skeletal muscle cells revealed the presence of chemokine CXC motif receptor 1/2 and chemokine CC motif receptor 1/2/4/5/10. The action of MCP-1 on insulin signaling in skeletal muscle cells occurs via ERK1/2 activation but does not involve activation of the nuclear factor kappaB pathway. In conclusion, our data show that adipocytes secrete various adipokines that may be involved in the negative cross-talk between adipose tissue and skeletal muscle. Human skeletal muscle cells are highly sensitive toward MCP-1, which impairs insulin signaling and glucose uptake at concentrations even below that found in the circulation. However, other cytokines that are released by adipocytes impair insulin action only at supraphysiological concentrations. Therefore, MCP-1 may represent a molecular link in the negative cross-talk between adipose tissue and skeletal muscle assigning a completely novel important role to MCP-1 besides inflammation.