Regulation of insulin-binding and basal (insulin-independent) as well as insulin-stimulated glycogen synthesis from [14C]glucose, net glycogen deposition and glycogen synthase activation by insulin and dexamethasone were studied in primary cultures of adult rat hepatocytes maintained under chemically defined conditions. Insulin receptor number was increased in a dose-dependent fashion by dexamethasone added to the medium between 24 and 48 h of culture and reduced by insulin, whereas ligand affinity remained unaltered. Insulin-induced down-regulation of insulin receptors was not affected by the glucocorticoid. Although the changes in the sensitivity to insulin of glycogen synthesis from glucose and net glycogen deposition paralleled the modulation of the number of insulin receptors, postbinding events appear to be implicated also in the regulation of insulin-sensitivity. Alterations of the responsiveness of glycogen synthesis to insulin caused by the glucocorticoid and/or insulin and by variation between individual rats were inversely related to cellular glycogen contents, suggesting that hepatocellular glycogen content participates in the regulation of insulin-responsiveness of this metabolic pathway. Regulation of insulin-dependent glycogen synthesis were different. Since the effects of this 'physiological' increase in exogenous glucose were small compared to the acute action of insulin, insulin rather than portal venous glucose is considered to represent the prime stimulator of hepatic glycogen synthesis.