The effects of the oxidant tert-butylhydroperoxide (t-buOOH) on carbachol-stimulated pancreatic secretion in the vascularly perfused rat pancreas have been studied in parallel with [Ca2+]i signalling and amylase output in perifused rat pancreatic acinar cells. Perfusion of the pancreas with t-buOOH (0.1-1 mM) caused a rapid and irreversible inhibition of carbachol-stimulated (3x10-7 M) amylase and fluid secretion. Pre-perfusion of the pancreas with vitamin C and dithiothreitol or a cocktail of GSH and GSH-precursor amino acids provided only marginal protection against the deleterious effects of t-buOOH, even though GSH levels were elevated significantly. In perifused pancreatic acini, repetitive [Ca2+]i spikes evoked by carbachol (3x10-7 M) were sustained for 40 min. t-buOOH (1 mM) acutely increased the amplitude and duration of Ca2+ spikes, then attenuated Ca2+ spiking and subsequently caused a marked and sustained rise in [Ca2+]i. t-buOOH-induced alterations in carbachol-stimulated [Ca2+]i signalling and amylase release in perifused pancreatic acini were prevented by vitamin C. Although vitamin C restored impaired Ca2+ signalling and maintained amylase output in pancreatic acini, it seems likely that oxidative stress inhibits fluid secretion irreversibly in the intact pancreas, resulting in a loss of amylase output. Thus, perturbations in [Ca2+]i signalling may not fully explain the secretory block caused by oxidative stress in acute pancreatitis.