Abstract Vanadium compounds have been documented to stimulate a number of insulin biological effects in vitro and in vivo. We previously demonstrated stimulation of glucose transport and insulin-like growth factor-II (IGF-II) binding in rat adipocytes. These actions are associated with translocation of glucose transporters and IGF-II receptors from an intracellular compartment to the plasma membrane. The transferrin receptor is also recruited to the plasma membrane in response to insulin. Freshly isolated rat adipocytes were incubated with vanadate and insulin at 37°C, and after treating the cells with KCN to inhibit further receptor movement, diferric 125I-transferrin binding was assayed. Vanadate stimulated a dose- and time-dependent increase in 125I-transferrin binding, reaching maximum (∼threefold) stimulation at 1 mmol/L after a 4-hour incubation. This was equivalent to the maximum insulin effect that was obtained with 10 −8 mol/L after 30 minutes. A similar degree of stimulation was achieved with 0.1 mmol/L vanadate after 8 hours of exposure. Dose-response data showed that the apparent sensitivity to vanadate was time-dependent and increased with the duration of exposure (EC 50: 30 minutes, 1 mmol/L; 3 hours, 0.35 mmol/L). Scatchard analysis of 125I-transferrin binding showed that both insulin and vanadate increased receptor binding capacity with no effect on receptor affinity. Total cellular transferrin receptor content measured by immunoblotting with monoclonal anti—transferrin receptor antibody (OX-26) was not altered by insulin or vanadate, consistent with receptor translocation. Assessment of 59Fe uptake from 59Fe-labeled diferric transferrin showed that vanadate augmented 59Fe uptake in a dose-dependent manner to an extent similar to insulin, demonstrating the functional activity of the receptors (percent of control: 10 −8 mol/L insulin, 175% ± 23.8%, P < .02; 0.3 mmol/L vanadate, 188% ± 17.3%, P < .01). We conclude that vanadate mimics insulin to augment cell surface transferrin receptors and increase Fe uptake in rat adipocytes. The time-dependent apparent increase in sensitivity is consistent with the effectiveness of very low concentrations of vanadate in vivo after several days of administration, and suggests a requirement for vanadate entry into cells to mediate this biological response.