Insulin secretion is finely tuned to the requirements of tissues by tight coupling to prevailing blood glucose levels. The normal regulation of insulin secretion is coupled to glucose metabolism in the pancreatic B cell, a major but not exclusive signal for secretion being closure of K+ ATP (adenosine' triphosphate)-dependent channels in the cell membrane through an increase in cytosolic ATP/adenosine diphosphate. Insulin secretion in type 2 diabetes is abnormal in several respects due to genetic causes but also due to the metabolic environment of the pancreatic B cells. This environment may be particularly important for the deterioration of insulin secretion which occurs with increasing duration of diabetes. Factors in the environment with potential importance include overstimulation, a negative effect of hyperglycemia per se ('glucotoxicity') as well as adverse effects of elevated fatty acids ('lipotoxicity'). Elucidating the mechanisms behind these factors as well as their clinical importance will pave the way for treatment which could preserve B-cell function in type 2 diabetic patients.