In the present study, insulin is shown to rapidly stimulate by 8- to 12-fold the enzymatic activity of RAC-PK alpha, a pleckstrin homology domain containing ser/thr kinase. In contrast, activation of protein kinase C by phorbol esters had almost no effect on the enzymatic activity of RAC-PK alpha. Insulin activation was accompanied by a shift in molecular weight of the RAC-PK alpha protein, and the activated kinase was deactivated by treatment with a phosphatase, indicating that insulin activated the enzyme by stimulating its phosphorylation. This insulin-induced shift in RAC-PK was also observed in primary rat epididymal adipocytes, as well as in a muscle cell line called C2C12 cells. The insulin-stimulated increase in RAC-PK alpha activity was inhibited by wortmannin (an inhibitor of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase) in a dose-dependent manner with a half-maximal inhibition of 10 nM, but not by 20 ng/ml of rapamycin. Activation of RAC-PK alpha activity was also observed in a variant RAC lacking the pleckstrin homology domain. These results indicate that RAC-PK alpha activity can be regulated by the insulin receptor. RAC-PK alpha may therefore play a general role in intracellular signaling mediated by receptor tyrosine kinases.