Corticosteroids have profound effects on bone metabolism, though the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. They are also known to alter glucose metabolism, in part by induction of insulin resistance. To determine whether corticosteroids impair glucose metabolism in bone cells, we have examined the actions of dexamethasone (DEX) on glucose transport and insulin receptor expression using osteoblast-like UMR 106-01 cells. DEX was shown to inhibit basal 2-deoxyglucose uptake by up to 30% in a time- and dose-dependent manner. It inhibited insulin-stimulated glucose transport by 13%. By Northern and Western blot analysis, DEX was shown to stimulate insulin receptor mRNA and protein by up to 5·6-fold, but it had no effect on expression of the glucose transporter GLUT 1 mRNA or protein under basal conditions. However, DEX augmented insulin-stimulated GLUT 1 mRNA and protein levels. By Scatchard analysis of labelled insulin binding, DEX increased insulin receptor number per cell by 54%. Subcellular fractionation and Western blot analysis demonstrated that DEX caused a redistribution of immunoreactive GLUT 1 from plasma membrane to intracellular microsomes, resulting in a 21% decrease in GLUT 1 at the plasma membrane. These data suggest that (i) DEX impairs basal glucose transport by post-translational mechanisms in UMR 106-01 cells, (ii) DEX increases insulin receptor mRNA, protein and insulin binding and (iii) the inhibition of glucose transport by DEX dominates its effects on the insulin receptor. It is possible that DEX inhibition of glucose transport in osteoblasts may contribute to steroid-induced osteoporosis.