This study examines the mechanisms of glucocorticoid-induced insulin resistance in rat soleus muscle. Glucocorticoid excess was induced by administration of dexamethasone to rats for 5 days. Dexamethasone decreased the sensitivity of 3-O-methylglucose transport, 2-deoxyglucose phosphorylation, glycogen synthesis and glucose oxidation to insulin. The total content of GLUT4 glucose transporters was not decreased by dexamethasone; however, the increase in these transporters in the plasma membrane in response to insulin (100 m-units/litre) was lessened. In contrast, the sensitivity of lactate formation to insulin was normal. The content of 2-deoxyglucose in the dexamethasone-treated muscle was decreased at 100 m-units/litre insulin, while the contents of glucose 6-phosphate and fructose 2,6-bisphosphate were normal at all concentrations of insulin studied. The maximal activity of hexokinase in the soleus muscle was not affected by dexamethasone; however, inhibition of this enzyme by glucose 6-phosphate was decreased. These results suggest the following. (1) Glucocorticoid excess causes insulin resistance in skeletal muscle by directly inhibiting the translocation of the GLUT4 glucose transporters to the plasma membrane in response to insulin; since the activity of hexokinase is not affected, the changes in the sensitivity of glucose phosphorylation to insulin seen under these conditions are secondary to those in glucose transport. (2) The sensitivity of glycogen synthesis and glucose oxidation to insulin is decreased, but that of glycolysis is not affected: a redistribution of glucose away from the pathway of glycogen synthesis and glucose oxidation could maintain a normal rate of lactate formation although the rate of glucose transport is decreased.