To study effects of Bcl-x(L) in the pancreatic beta-cell, two transgenic lines were produced using different forms of the rat insulin promoter. Bcl-x(L) expression in beta-cells was increased 2- to 3-fold in founder (Fd) 1 and over 10-fold in Fd 2 compared with littermate controls. After exposure to thapsigargin (10 microM for 48 h), losses of cell viability in islets of Fd 1 and Fd 2 Bcl-x(L) transgenic mice were significantly lower than in islets of wild-type mice. Unexpectedly, severe glucose intolerance was observed in Fd 2 but not Fd 1 Bcl-x(L) mice. Pancreatic insulin content and islet morphology were not different from control in either transgenic line. However, Fd 2 Bcl-x(L) islets had impaired insulin secretory and intracellular free Ca(2+) ([Ca(2+)](i)) responses to glucose and KCl. Furthermore, insulin and [Ca(2+)](i) responses to pyruvate methyl ester (PME) were similarly reduced as glucose in Fd 2 Bcl-x(L) islets. Consistent with a mitochondrial defect, glucose oxidation, but not glycolysis, was significantly lower in Fd 2 Bcl-x(L) islets than in wild-type islets. Glucose-, PME-, and alpha-ketoisocaproate-induced hyperpolarization of mitochondrial membrane potential, NAD(P)H, and ATP production were also significantly reduced in Fd 2 Bcl-x(L) islets. Thus, although Bcl-x(L) promotes beta-cell survival, high levels of expression of Bcl-x(L) result in reduced glucose-induced insulin secretion and hyperglycemia due to a defect in mitochondrial nutrient metabolism and signaling for insulin secretion.