Insulin, whole serum, phorbol esters and epidermal growth factor each rapidly stimulate protein synthesis in serum-depleted Swiss 3T3 fibroblasts. The activation of protein synthesis by each of these agents is associated with stimulation of the activity of the guanine-nucleotide-exchange factor (GEF). This protein recycles the initiation factor eIF-2 by promoting exchange of GDP bound to eIF-2 for GTP. Activation of GEF is rapid, becoming maximal within 15 min. The degree of activation of GEF by these stimuli (to greater than 170% of control for insulin, serum or epidermal growth factor; 120% for phorbol dibutyrate) is more than enough to account for their effects on the overall rate of translation. Stimulation of protein synthesis and GEF activity occurs at low nanomolar insulin concentrations, indicating they are mediated through the insulin receptor. The best-characterized mechanism for regulating GEF activity is through changes in the phosphorylation of the smallest subunit of eIF-2 (eIF-2 alpha); however, none of the stimuli studied altered the level of phosphorylation of eIF-2 alpha in Swiss fibroblasts. It seems that direct regulation of GEF activity may be occurring here, and possible mechanisms for this are discussed.