Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) gene expression was studied in differentiating brown adipocytes. Northern blot analysis showed that GAPDH mRNA levels increased during differentiation of precursor cells into mature adipocytes, mainly in the initial stages of the differentiation process. Insulin, tri-iodothyronine (T(3)) and norepinephrine, the main regulators of brown adipose tissue function, upregulated GAPDH mRNA levels, whereas retinoic acid inhibited them. The effect of insulin was present on all culture days examined, was time- and dose-dependent, and was exerted through its own receptors, as demonstrated by comparing insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I and -II potencies in this system. Using the transcriptional inhibitor, actinomycin D, we demonstrated that T(3), and to a lesser extent insulin, stabilized GAPDH mRNA. Experiments with cycloheximide indicated that both hormones require de novo protein synthesis to achieve their effects. Using cAMP analogs, we showed that the effect of norepinephrine is probably exerted through this second messenger. Co-operation was elucidated between norepinephrine- and insulin-mediated induction of GAPDH mRNA levels. In summary, we have demonstrated that GAPDH mRNA is subjected to multifactorial regulation in differentiating brown adipocytes that includes differentiation of precursor cells and the lipogenic/lipolytic regulators of the tissue.