Previous work has demonstrated that chronic administration of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) to obese Zucker rats reduces the severity of hyperinsulinemia that is usually present. There were also significant decreases in body weight, fat depot weight, and adipose tissue cellularity. It was hypothesized that the decreased serum insulin was a reflection of improved tissue responsiveness to insulin. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate this hypothesis by examining the insulin response in isolated adipocytes of DHEA-treated rats. Glucose incorporation into CO2, fatty acids, and glyceride-glycerol was measured in isolated parametrial and retroperitoneal adipocytes. Cells from control and DHEA-treated lean rats and control and DHEA-treated obese rats were used, as well as cells from a group of obese rats pair-fed to the DHEA-obese rats. Increased basal and insulin-stimulated rates of incorporation of glucose into CO2 and fatty acids were found in adipocytes from DHEA-lean rats compared to control, lean rats. In contrast, cells from DHEA-treated obese rats tended to incorporate less glucose into CO2 and fatty acids than either the control or pair-fed obese rats. These data indicate that the decrease in serum insulin levels seen in DHEA-treated obese rats is not due to an improvement of adipose tissue responsiveness.