In skeletal muscle, a defect in the covalent activation of glycogen synthase by insulin has been identified in insulin resistance and in Type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus, but a similar defect in insulin action at the adipose tissue has not been demonstrated. We sought to determine whether this defect in insulin action in muscle was also present in the same pathway in adipose tissue. We examined the effect of in vivo insulin on adipose tissue glycogen synthase and phosphorylase activity in normal (n = 11), hyperinsulinaemic (n = 8), and impaired glucose tolerant and Type 2 diabetic (n = 8) rhesus monkeys. Adipose tissue samples were obtained before and during a euglycaemic hyperinsulinaemic clamp. Glycogen synthase fractional velocity, independent and total activities were significantly higher in the insulin-stimulated samples compared to the basal samples in the normal group (p < 0.05, respectively). In the hyperinsulinaemic group, however, insulin had no effect on glycogen synthase fractional velocity or independent activity, but did increase the total activity of glycogen synthase and phosphorylase (p < 0.05, respectively). Furthermore, both the basal and the insulin-stimulated total activities of these two enzymes were significantly greater in the hyperinsulinaemic group as compared to both the normal and the diabetic groups (p < 0.05, respectively). In the diabetic group, insulin was without effect on glycogen synthase fractional velocity, independent activity or total activity. We conclude that the covalent activation of adipose tissue glycogen synthase by insulin is absent in both obese hyperinsulinaemic and in spontaneously diabetic monkeys.