It has previously been reported that exercise causes an increase in glucose uptake in skeletal muscle and also an increase in 5' AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) activity. 5-Aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-1-beta-D-ribofuranoside (AICA-riboside), an analog of adenosine, is taken up into cells and phosphorylated to form AICA-riboside monophosphate (ZMP), which can also activate AMPK. This study was designed to determine whether the increase in glucose uptake observed with AMPK activation by AICA-riboside is due to GLUT4 translocation from an intracellular location to the plasma membranes, similar to that seen in response to contraction. Rat hindlimbs were perfused with Krebs-Henseleit bicarbonate containing 4% bovine serum albumin, washed bovine erythrocytes, 8 mmol/l glucose, and +/-2 mmol/AICA-riboside or +/-60 nmol/l insulin. Perfusion medium containing AICA-riboside was found to significantly increase AMPK activity, glucose uptake, and GLUT4 translocation in skeletal muscle above basal levels. Insulin-perfused muscles showed significant increases in glucose uptake and GLUT4 translocation, but AMPK activation was not significantly changed from basal levels. These results provide evidence that the increased glucose uptake observed with AMPK activation by AICA-riboside in perfused rat hindlimb muscles is due to an increase in the translocation of GLUT4 to surface membranes.