The protein-modifying agent arsenite stimulates glucose uptake in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. In the current study we have analysed the signalling pathways that contribute to this response. By subcellular fractionation we observed that arsenite, like insulin, induces translocation of the GLUT1 and GLUT4 glucose transporters from the low-density membrane fraction to the plasma membrane. Arsenite did not activate early steps of the insulin receptor (IR)-signalling pathway and the response was insensitive to inhibition of phosphatidylinositol-3′-kinase (PI-3′) kinase by wortmannin. These findings indicate that the ‘classical’ IR–IR substrate–PI-3′ kinase pathway, that is essential for insulin-induced GLUT4 translocation, is not activated by arsenite. However, arsenite-treatment did induce tyrosine-phosphorylation of c-Cbl. Furthermore, treatment of the cells with the tyrosine kinase inhibitor, tyrphostin A25, abolished arsenite-induced glucose uptake, suggesting that the induction of a tyrosine kinase by arsenite is essential for glucose uptake. Both arsenite and insulin-induced glucose uptake were inhibited partially by the p38 MAP kinase inhibitor, SB203580. This compound had no effect on the magnitude of translocation of glucose transporters indicating that the level of glucose transport is determined by additional factors. Arsenite- and insulin-induced glucose uptake responded in a remarkably similar dose-dependent fashion to a range of pharmacological- and peptide-inhibitors for atypical PKC-λ, a downstream target of PI-3′ kinase signalling in insulin-induced glucose uptake. These data show that in 3T3-L1 adipocytes both arsenite- and insulin-induced signalling pathways project towards a similar cellular response, namely GLUT1 and GLUT4 translocation and glucose uptake. This response to arsenite is not functionally linked to early steps of the IR–IRS–PI-3′ kinase pathway, but does coincide with c-Cbl phosphorylation, basal levels of PKC-λ activity and p38 MAPK activation.