New therapeutic approaches to counter the increasing prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus are in high demand. Deregulation of the phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K)/v-akt murine thymoma viral oncogene homologue (AKT), mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) pathways, which are essential for glucose homeostasis, often results in obesity and diabetes. Thus, these pathways should be attractive therapeutic targets. However, with the exception of metformin, which is considered to function mainly by activating AMPK, no treatment for the metabolic syndrome based on targeting protein kinases has yet been developed. By contrast, therapies based on the inhibition of the PI3K/AKT and MAPK pathways are already successful in the treatment of diverse cancer types and inflammatory diseases. This contradiction prompted us to review the signal transduction mechanisms of PI3K/AKT, MAPK and AMPK and their roles in glucose homeostasis, and we also discuss current clinical implications.