An oxygen microsensor with a < 3-micron tip diameter was developed for monitoring oxygen levels at single cells and mouse pancreatic islets. The sensor was fabricated by electrochemically recessing an etched Pt wire inside a pulled glass micropipet and then coating with cellulose acetate. This fabrication process was found to be simpler than previous oxygen electrode designs of comparable size. The microsensors had a average sensitivity of 0.59 +/- 0.29 pA/mmHg (mean +/- SD, n = 42), signals that were minimally perturbed by convection, and response times of < 1 s. The electrode was used to measure the oxygen gradient around and inside single mouse islets. The measurements demonstrate that oxygen levels within even the largest islets at maximal glucose stimulation are 67 +/- 1.6 mmHg (mean +/- SD, n = 5), indicating that islets have adequate oxygen supplies by diffusion under tissue culture conditions to support insulin secretion. The electrode was also used to record the dynamics of oxygen level at single islets as a function of glucose concentration. As glucose level was changed from 3 to 10 mM, oxygen level decreased by 15.8 +/- 2.3 mmHg (mean +/- SEM, n = 6) and oscillations with a period of 3.3 +/- 0.6 min (mean +/- SEM, n = 6) appeared in the oxygen level. In islets bathed in quiescent solutions containing 10 mM glucose, similar oscillations could be observed. In addition, in the quiet solutions it was possible to detect faster oscillations with a period of 12.1 +/- 1.7 s (mean +/- SEM, n = 6) superimposed on the slower oscillations. Oxygen consumption could also be observed at single insulinoma cells using the electrode. Individual cells also showed oscillations in oxygen consumption with a period of a few seconds. The results demonstrate that the electrode can be used for dynamic oxygen level recordings in biological microenvironments.