Recent studies indicate that Ag pass through a chloroquine-sensitive intracellular pathway in accessory cells before they are recognized by class II-restricted T cells. Our results indicate that this is also true for insulin. Unexpectedly, we find that protein synthesis is required for optimal accessory cell-dependent processing of insulin and other proteins by adherent macrophages. Treatment of APC with inhibitors of protein synthesis, before and during exposure to Ag, inhibits their subsequent ability to activate murine T cell hybridomas. Experiments are described which suggest that this effect is localized to intracellular processing of Ag rather than uptake or presentation, per se. Inhibition is reversible, and is not observed in special situations where intracellular processing of Ag is not required. A distinct lag period is required for inhibition of processing after inhibition of macrophage protein synthesis. One possible interpretation is that protein synthesis is necessary for maintenance of a labile protein crucial for intracellular processing of Ag. Alternatively, the susceptibility of processing to inhibitors of protein synthesis may reflect an obligate intracellular association of Ag and newly synthesized class II histocompatibility molecules.