In hepatocytes glycogen storage is stimulated by insulin and this effect of insulin is counteracted by epidermal growth factor (EGF). The mechanism by which insulin stimulates glycogen synthesis in liver is unknown. We investigated the involvement of candidate protein kinases in insulin signalling in hepatocytes. Both insulin and EGF activated extracellular regulated kinase 2 (ERK-2), p70rsk and protein kinase B (PKB) and inactivated glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3). Whereas EGF caused a greater activation of ERK-2 than insulin, the converse was true for PKB. The stimulation by insulin of ERK-2 was blocked by a mitogen-activated protein (MEK) inhibitor (PD 98059) and of p70rsk by rapamycin. However, these inhibitors, separately or in combination, did not block the stimulation of glycogen synthesis by insulin, indicating that activation of these kinases is not essential for the stimulation of glycogen synthesis by insulin. Mono Q fractionation of hepatocyte extracts resolved a single myelin basic protein (MBP) kinase peak from extracts of EGF-treated cells (peak 1, eluting at 200 mmol/l NaCl) and two peaks from insulin-treated cells (peak 1 eluting at 200 mmol/l NaCl and peak 2 eluting at 400 mmol/l NaCl). In the combined presence of insulin and EGF, activation of peak 2 was abolished. In situ MBP kinase assays and immunoblotting established that peak 1 coincides with ERK-2 and peak 2 is not an activated form of ERK-1 or ERK-2. It is concluded that PKB, which is activated to a greater extent by insulin than EGF, and peak 2, which is activated by insulin and counteracted by EGF, are possible candidates in mediating the stimulation of glycogen synthesis by insulin.