Insulin, IGF-1 or EGF induce membrane ruffling through their respective tyrosine kinase receptors. To elucidate the molecular link between receptor activation and membrane ruffling, we microinjected phosphorylated peptides containing YMXM motifs or a mutant 85 kDa subunit of phosphoinositide (PI) 3-kinase (delta p85) which lacks a binding site for the catalytic 110 kDa subunit of PI 3-kinase into the cytoplasm of human epidermoid carcinoma KB cells. Both inhibited the association of insulin receptor substrate-1 (IRS-1) with PI 3-kinase in a cell-free system and also inhibited insulin- or IGF-1-induced, but not EGF-induced, membrane ruffling in KB cells. Microinjection of nonphosphorylated analogues, phosphorylated peptides containing the EYYE motif or wild-type 85 kDa subunit (Wp85), all of which did not inhibit the association of IRS-1 with PI 3-kinase in a cell-free system, did not inhibit membrane ruffling in KB cells. In addition, wortmannin, an inhibitor of PI 3-kinase activity, inhibited insulin- or IGF-1-induced membrane ruffling. These results suggest that the association of IRS-1 with PI 3-kinase followed by the activation of PI 3-kinase are required for insulin- or IGF-1-induced, but not for EGF-induced, membrane ruffling.