This study investigates the effects of the islet hormones, insulin (Ins), glucagon (Glu) and somatostatin (Som) with cholecystokinin octapeptide (CCK-8) on amylase secretion and intracellular free calcium concentration [Ca2+]i and their pattern of distribution in the isolated pancreas of normal and diabetic rats. Ins and Glu evoked small increases in amylase output from pancreatic segments compared with a much enhanced effect of CCK-8. In contrast, Som induced a biphasic response comprising an initial decrease followed by a secondary increase and this biphasic response may be dependent upon the concentration. Combining the islet hormones with CCK-8 resulted in marked potentiation in amylase output compared with either CCK-8 alone or the individual hormone. Genistein and tyrphostin A25, the tyrosine kinase inhibitors, evoked a small decrease in amylase output from pancreatic segments. They had no effect on the CCK-8-evoked secretory response but markedly inhibited the potentiation of the islet hormones with CCK-8. In pancreatic acini and acinar cells Ins, Glu and Som individually evoked small increases in amylase output compared with a much larger response with CCK-8. When the islet hormones were combined with CCK-8 there was no potentiation of amylase output. Similarly, when rats were rendered diabetic by prior treatment with streptozotocin Ins, Glu and Som failed to potentiate the secretory response of CCK-8. In fura-2-loaded pancreatic acinar cells Ins or Glu evoked small increases in [Ca2+]i compared with a much larger elevation with CCK-8. Ins, Glu and Som each enhanced the CCK-8-evoked [Ca2+]i. Genistein elicited a decrease in [Ca2+]i both in the absence and presence of the islet hormones. It also decreased the elevation in [Ca2+]i resulting from the combined presence of CCK-8 with either Ins or Glu but it had no effect on CCK-8 in combination with Som. In pancreatic acinar cells from diabetic rat Ins, Glu and Som had no detectable effect on CCK-8-evoked elevation in [Ca2+]i compared with the response obtained with CCK-8 alone. CCK-8-immunopositive cells were distributed around the walls of blood vessels, numerous Ins-positive cells in the central and peripheral parts of the islets of Langerhans, Glu-immunoreactive cells in the periphery of islets and Som-positive cells in the outer part of the islets. During diabetes, the number of CCK-immunopositive cells remained unchanged whereas the number of Ins-positive cells decreased coupled with an increase in the number of Glu-positive cells. The results indicate that both tyrosine kinase and cellular Ca2+ seem to be the intracellular mediators involved with the enhanced secretory responses obtained with a combination of the islet hormones with CCK-8. Moreover, the presence of viable pancreatic islets of Langerhans seems to be associated with the potentiation of the islet hormones with CCK-8.