We previously demonstrated the translocation of insulin to the nucleus in several cell types and partially characterized the uptake mechanisms and pathways in H35 rat hepatoma cells. Nuclear accumulation of insulin was energy independent, time and temperature dependent, and apparently was not saturable at insulin concentrations which resulted in full receptor occupancy. We also have shown insulin could be internalized by both receptor-mediated and fluid-phase endocytosis. This study investigated subsequent steps involved in the nuclear accumulation of insulin following internalization. We examined the effects of inhibiting insulin degrading enzyme (IDE) with 1,10-phenanthroline on the nuclear accumulation of insulin in H35 cells. 1,10-phenanthroline (2 mM) which markedly inhibited insulin degradation, significantly increased nuclear accumulation of insulin without having any effects on total cell-associated and intracellular insulin. This reagent increased 125I-insulin on the cellular membrane and decreased 125iodine (125I-insulin and 125I-insulin degradation products) in the cytosolic fractions. Chemical extraction and Sephadex G-50 chromatography revealed the insulin associated with the nucleus in 1,10-phenanthroline-treated cells formed the same complex(es) with the nuclear matrix as in control cells. These results suggested that inhibition of cytosolic IDE activity resulted in increased insulin translocation from the cytosol to the nucleus. Furthermore, when IDE activity was inhibited by high cytosolic insulin concentrations, the amount of 125I-insulin in the nucleus was significantly increased. Our study suggests internalized insulin is probably released from endosomes into the cytosol where modulation of IDE activity could have significant effects on the accumulation of insulin, or insulin-cytoplasmic protein complexes, in nuclei. The IDE regulatory mechanism, by controlling the translocation of insulin to the cell nucleus, could play a crucial role in insulin's regulation of gene expression and cell proliferation.