We previously demonstrated that insulin accumulated in 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, temperature, and insulin concentration dependent, but apparently nonsaturable. This study investigated further the initial endocytotic pathways that contribute to the nuclear accumulation of insulin using trypsin treatment of the cells to prevent insulin binding to its plasma membrane receptor. Total cell-associated, intracellular, and nuclear insulin were compared in control and trypsin-treated H35 hepatoma cells. Trypsin treatment markedly decreased total cell-associated and intracellular insulin as well as the nuclear accumulation of insulin when cells were incubated with 2.8 ng/ml insulin. When the cells were incubated with 100 ng/ml insulin, trypsin treatment totally inhibited insulin binding to the plasma membrane for at least 90 min. However, intracellular accumulation of insulin was reduced by only 50% at 60 min, and trypsin treatment failed to inhibit the nuclear accumulation of insulin. Chemical extraction and Sephadex G-50 chromatography revealed nuclear associated insulin in trypsin-treated cells was identical to that in control cells incubated with either 2.8 or 100 ng/ml insulin. These results suggest that a nonreceptor mediated uptake pathway, i.e., fluid-phase endocytosis, contributed significantly to the nuclear accumulation of insulin at high insulin concentrations, but at lower insulin concentrations the receptor-mediated pathway predominated. No matter which initial endocytotic route was used to internalize insulin, the insulin apparently associated with the same nuclear matrix proteins. This association of insulin with the nuclear matrix may be involved in regulation of nuclear events such as cell growth and differentiation or gene transcription.