Treatment of isolated rat hepatocytes with saturating concentrations of glucagon caused several modifications properties of pyruvate kinase (ATP:pyruvate 2-O-phosphotransferase, EC 184.108.40.206): S0.5 (substrate concentration at half maximum velocity) for phosphoenolpyruvate was about doubled, whereas Vmax was not changed; the activity measured at 0.15 mM phosphoenolpyruvate (physiological concentration) was reduced 65-80%; and there was also an increase in the Hill coefficient and in the affinity of the enzyme for the inhibitors Mg-ATP and alanine. Glucagon, 3':5'-cyclic AMP, and epinephrine caused an inactivation of pyruvate kinase together with a sitmulation of gluconeogenesis. Insulin (10 nM) antagonized the effect of suboptimal doses of glucagon or cyclic AMP and of even maximal doses of epinephrine, on both pyruvate kinase activity and on gluconeogenesis. These observations can be explained by a phosphorylation of pyruvate kinase by cyclic-AMP-dependent protein kinase, as described by Ljungström et al. [(1974) Biochim. Biophys. Acta 358, 289-298] in a reconstructed system. They offer a molecular explanation for the hormonal control of gluconeogenesis. Glucose caused an inhibition of gluconeogenesis with no corresponding change in pyruvate kinase activity.