To address whether Ras can be activated by insulin in the PC12 cell line, proteins interacting with insulin receptor and IRS-1 molecules and their tyrosine phosphorylation were analyzed by immunoblotting following immunoprecipitation with antibodies. Tyrosine phosphorylation of the insulin receptor and IRS-1 was increased by insulin. Grb2 and Ras-GAP appeared in the immunoprecipitates by anti-insulin receptor and anti-IRS-1 from insulin-treated cells. In addition, PI 3-kinase was activated by insulin treatment in this cell line and Grb2, Ras-GAP, and MAP kinase were coprecipitated with Ras from both insulin-treated and NGF-treated cells. Analysis of MAP kinases from insulin-treated cells revealed that insulin, like NGF, increased tyrosine phosphorylation. However, activation of the MAP kinase by NGF lasted longer than activation by insulin. These results indicate that Ras can be activated by insulin in the PC12 cell line and that Ras activation is neither an accurate nor a plausible method of discriminating signals between proliferation and differentiation.