The activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) by insulin and anisomycin has been reported to result in increases in glycogen synthase (GS) activity in rat skeletal muscle (Moxham et al., J Biol Chem, 1996, 271:30765-30773). In addition, the protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor, RO 31-8220, has been reported to activate JNK in rat-1 fibroblasts (Beltman et al., J Biol Chem, 1996, 271:27018-27024). Presently, we found that the RO 31-8220, as well as insulin, activated JNK and GS and stimulated glucose incorporation into glycogen in rat adipocytes and L6 myotubes. In contrast to activation of JNK, RO 31-8220 inhibited extracellular response kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2) and had no significant effects on protein kinase B (PKB). Stimulatory effects of RO 31-8220 on JNK and glycogen metabolism were not explained by PKC inhibition, as other PKC inhibitors were without effect on glucose incorporation into glycogen and have no effect on JNK (Beltman et al., J Biol Chem, 1996, 271:27018). Insulin, on the other hand, activated JNK, as well as PKB and ERK1/2. However, stimulatory effects of insulin on GS and glucose incorporation into glycogen appeared to be fully intact and additive to those of RO 31-8220, despite the fact that insulin did not provoke additive increases in JNK activity above those observed with RO 31-8220 alone. Our findings suggest that JNK serves to activate GS during the action of RO 31-8220 in rat adipocytes and L6 myotubes; insulin, on the other hand, appears to activate GS largely independently of JNK.