Recent studies have demonstrated that chronic administration of AICAR (5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-1-beta -D-ribofuranoside), an activator of the AMP-activated protein kinase, increases hexokinase activity and the contents of total GLUT4 and glycogen in rat skeletal muscles. To explore whether AICAR also affects insulin-stimulated glucose transport and GLUT4 cell surface content. Wistar rats were subcutaneously injected with AICAR for 5 days in succession (1 mg/g body wt). Maximally insulin-stimulated (60 nmol/l) glucose uptake was markedly increased in epitrochlearis (EPI) muscle (average 63%, P < 0.001, n = 18-19) and in extensor digitorum longus muscle (average 26%, P < 0.001, n = 26-30). In contrast, administration of AICAR did not maximally influence insulin-stimulated glucose transport in soleus muscle. Studies of EPI muscle with the 4,4'-O-[2-[2-[2-[2[2-[6-(biotinylamino)hexanoyl]amino] ethoxy]ethoxy] ethoxyl-4-(1-azi-2,2,2,-trifluoroethyl)benzoyl]amino-1,3-propanediyl]bis -D-mannose photolabeling technique showed a concomitant increase (average 68%, P < 0.02) in cell surface GLUT4 content after insulin exposure in AICAR-injected rats when compared with controls. In conclusion, 5 days of AICAR administration induces a pronounced fiber type-specific increase in insulin-stimulated glucose uptake and GLUT4 cell surface content in rat skeletal muscle with the greatest effect observed on white fast-twitch glycolytic muscles (EPI). These results are comparable with the effects of chronic exercise training, and it brings the AMP-activated protein kinase into focus as a new interesting target for future pharmacological intervention in insulin-resistant conditions.