The insulin receptor tyrosine kinase is required for insulin to elicit subsequent biological signalling. Recent studies have identified several endogenous substrates of the insulin receptor kinase, including one called insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS-1). Tyrosine phosphorylation of this substrate results in its being bound by various proteins containing src homology 2 (SH2) sites, including a phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase and a ras activator complex containing GRB2 and son of sevenless (SOS) 1. Decreases in the insulin receptor tyrosine kinase activity have been observed in various insulin-resistant states, such as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. A model of insulin resistance has recently been described in which the insulin receptor is expressed in Chinese hamster ovary cells along with the phospholipid- and calcium-activated serine/threonine kinase called protein kinase C. In this model system, activation of protein kinase C is shown to interfere with insulin receptor signalling by inhibiting tyrosine phosphorylation of IRS-1 and its subsequent binding by phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase. Such a model system may be further utilized to determine the detailed biochemical basis for insulin resistance.