Insulin stimulates the transcription of the sterol regulatory- element binding protein (SREBP) 1/ADD1 gene in liver. Hepatocytes in primary culture were used to delineate the insulin signalling pathway for induction of SREBP1 gene expression. The inhibitors of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase), wortmannin and LY 294002, abolished the insulin-dependent increase in SREBP1 mRNA, whereas the inhibitor of the mitogen- activated protein kinase cascade, PD 98059, was without effect. To investigate the role of protein kinase B (PKB)/cAkt downstream of PI 3-kinase, hepatocytes were transduced with an adenovirus encoding a PKB--oestrogen receptor fusion protein. The PKB activity of this recombinant protein was rapidly activated in hepatocytes challenged with 4-hydroxytamoxifen (OHT), as was endogenous PKB in hepatocytes challenged with insulin. The addition of OHT to transduced hepatocytes resulted in accumulation of SREBP1 mRNA, with a time-course and magnitude similar to the effect of insulin in non-transduced cells. The level of SREBP1 mRNA was not increased by OHT in hepatocytes expressing a mutant form of the recombinant protein whose PKB activity was not activated by OHT. Thus acute activation of PKB is sufficient to induce SREBP1 mRNA accumulation in primary hepatocytes, and might be the major signalling event by which insulin induces SREBP1 gene expression in the liver.