We have examined the acute effects of insulin and isoproterenol on the phosphorylation state of the insulin-regulatable glucose transporter (IRGT) in rat adipocytes. The IRGT was immunoprecipitated from either detergent-solubilized whole-cell homogenates or subcellular fractions of 32P-labeled fat cells and subjected to sodium dodecyl sulfate/polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. The 32P-labeled IRGT was detected by autoradiography as a species of apparent Mr 46,000. Insulin stimulated translocation of the IRGT from low-density microsomes to the plasma membrane but did not affect phosphorylation of the transporter in either fraction. Isoproterenol inhibited insulin-stimulated glucose transport by 40% but was without effect on the subcellular distribution of the transporter in either the presence or absence of insulin. Isoproterenol stimulated phosphorylation of the IRGT 2-fold. Incubating cells with dibutyryl-cAMP and 8-bromo-cAMP also stimulated phosphorylation 2-fold, and the transporter was phosphorylated in vitro when IRGT-enriched vesicles were incubated with cAMP-dependent protein kinase and [gamma-32P]ATP. These results suggest that isoproterenol stimulates phosphorylation of the IRGT via a cAMP-dependent pathway and that phosphorylation of the transporter may modulate its ability to transport glucose.