Impaired insulin secretion in type 2 diabetes is characterized by decreased first-phase insulin secretion, an increased proinsulin-to-insulin molar ratio in plasma, abnormal pulsatile insulin release, and heightened disorderliness of insulin concentration profiles. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that these abnormalities are at least partly reversed by a period of overnight suspension of beta-cell secretory activity achieved by somatostatin infusion. Eleven patients with type 2 diabetes were studied twice after a randomly ordered overnight infusion of either somatostatin or saline with the plasma glucose concentration clamped at approximately 8 mmol/l. Controls were studied twice after overnight saline infusions and then at a plasma glucose concentration of either 4 or 8 mmol/l. We report that in patients with type 2 diabetes, 1) as in nondiabetic humans, insulin is secreted in discrete insulin secretory bursts; 2) the frequency of pulsatile insulin secretion is normal; 3) the insulin pulse mass is diminished, leading to decreased insulin secretion, but this defect can be overcome acutely by beta-cell rest with somatostatin; 4) the reported loss of orderliness of insulin secretion, attenuated first-phase insulin secretion, and elevated proinsulin-to-insulin molar ratio also respond favorably to overnight inhibition by somatostatin. The results of these clinical experiments suggest the conclusion that multiple parameters of abnormal insulin secretion in patients with type 2 diabetes mechanistically reflect cellular depletion of immediately secretable insulin that can be overcome by beta-cell rest.