In vivo glucose uptake (Rd) occurs via two mechanisms: 1) insulin-mediated glucose uptake (IMGU), which occurs in insulin-sensitive tissues, and 2) noninsulin-mediated glucose uptake (NIMGU), which occurs in both insulin-sensitive and insulin-insensitive tissues. Thus, in the postabsorptive (basal) state Rd = IMGU + NIMGU. To determine whether these two pathways for in vivo glucose disposal are regulated independently, we studied the effect of stress levels of epinephrine (EPI) on IMGU and NIMGU in seven normal men after an overnight fast. To study NIMGU, somatostatin (600 micrograms/hr) was infused to suppress endogenous insulin secretion, and glucose turnover was measured isotopically while the serum glucose level was clamped at about 200 mg/dL for 240 min. Separate studies were done during the infusion of saline or EPI (0.2 microgram/kg X min). The final 120 min of each study were used for data analysis. Under these conditions insulin action is absent and Rd = NIMGU. NIMGU was 210 +/- 15 (+/- SEM) and 200 +/- 17 mg/min during saline and EPI treatment, respectively (P = NS). Therefore, EPI has no ability to modulate NIMGU. To measure the effect of EPI on Rd, hyperglycemic (200 mg/dL) hyperinsulinemic clamp (30 mU/M2 X min) studies were performed during the infusion of saline and EPI. EPI decreased Rd by 46 +/- 6% (751 +/- 85 to 405 +/- 43 mg/min; P less than 0.01). When the effect of EPI on IMGU (Rd - NIMGU) was considered separately, the inhibitory effect of EPI was more potent, as indicated by a 61 +/- 12% decrease in IMGU. In conclusion, 1) EPI inhibits IMGU, but has no effect on NIMGU; 2) when NIMGU is taken into account, EPI has a more potent ability to inhibit IMGU than previously found; and 3) the systems responsible for NIMGU and IMGU are independently regulated.