Adipocyte differentiation comprises altered gene expression and increased triglyceride storage. To investigate the interdependency of these two events, 3T3-L1 cells were differentiated in the presence of glucose or pyruvate. All adipocytic proteins examined were similarly increased between the two conditions. In contrast, 3T3-L1 adipocytes differentiated with glucose exhibited significant lipid accumulation, which was largely suppressed in the presence of pyruvate. Subsequent addition of glucose to the latter cells restored lipid accumulation and acute rates of insulin-stimulated lipogenesis. These data indicate that extracellular energy is required for induction of adipocytic proteins, while only glucose sustained the parallel increase in triglyceride storage.