Insulin receptor substrates (IRS)-1 and -2 are major substrates of insulin and type I insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) receptor (IGF-IR) signaling. In this study, SH-EP human neuroblastoma cells are used as a model system to examine the differential roles of IRS-1 and IRS-2 on glucose-mediated apoptosis. In the presence of high glucose, IRS-1 underwent caspase-mediated degradation, followed by focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and Akt degradation and apoptosis. IRS-2 expression blocked all these changes whereas IRS-1 overexpression had no effect. In parallel, IRS-2, but not IRS-1, overexpression enhanced IGF-I-mediated Akt activation without affecting extracellular regulated kinase signaling. While IRS-1 was readily degraded by caspases, hyperglycemia-mediated IRS-2 degradation was unaffected by caspase inhibitors but blocked by proteasome and calpain inhibitors. Our data suggest that the differential degradation of IRS-1 and IRS-2 contributes to their distinct modes of action and the increased neuroprotective effects of IRS-2 in this report are due, in part, to its resistance to caspase-mediated degradation.