Elevated levels of 5α-reduced androgens have been shown to be associated with hyperandrogenism and hyperinsulinemia, the leading causes of ovulatory dysfunction in women. 5α-Dihydrotestosterone reduces ovarian granulosa cell proliferation by inhibiting FSH-mediated mitogenic signaling pathways. The present study examined the effect of insulin on 5α-reductase, the enzyme that catalyses the conversion of androgens to their 5α-derivatives. Granulosa cells isolated from immature rat ovaries were cultured in serum-free, phenol red-free DMEM-F12 media and treated with different doses of insulin (0, 0.1, 1.0, and 10.0 μg/ml) for different time intervals up to 12 h. The expression of 5α-reductase type 1 mRNA, the predominant isoform found in granulosa cells, showed a significant (P<0.05) increase in response to the insulin treatment up to 12 h compared with control. The catalytic activity of 5α-reductase enzyme was also stimulated in a dose-depended manner (P<0.05). Inhibiting the Akt-dependent signaling pathway abolished the insulin-mediated increase in 5α-reductase mRNA expression, whereas inhibition of the ERK-dependent pathway had no effect. The dose-dependent increase in 5α-reductase mRNA expression as well as catalytic activity seen in response to insulin treatment was also demonstrated in the human granulosa cell line (KGN). In addition to increased mRNA expression, a dose-dependent increase in 5α-reductase protein expression in response to insulin was also seen in KGN cells, which corroborated well with that of mRNA expression. These results suggest that elevated levels of 5α-reduced androgens seen in hyperinsulinemic conditions might be explained on the basis of a stimulatory effect of insulin on 5α-reductase in granulosa cells. The elevated levels of these metabolites, in turn, might adversely affect growth and proliferation of granulosa cells, thereby impairing follicle growth and ovulation.