Eye growth and refraction are regulated by visual processing in the retina. Until now, the messengers released by the retina to induce these changes are largely unknown. Previously, it was found that glucagon amacrine cells respond to defocus in the retinal image and even to its sign. The expression of the immediate-early gene product ZENK increased in this cell population in eyes wearing plus lenses and decreased in minus lens-treated chicks. Moreover, it was shown that the amount of retinal glucagon mRNA increased during treatment with positive lenses. Therefore, it seems likely that these cells contribute to the visual regulation of ocular growth and that glucagon may act as a stop signal for eye growth. The purpose of the present study was to accumulate further evidence for a role of glucagon in the visual control of eye growth. Chicks were treated with plus and minus lenses after injection of different amounts of the glucagon antagonist des-His1-Glu1-glucagon-amide or the agonist Lys17,18,Glu21-glucagon, respectively. Refractive development and eye growth were recorded by automated infrared photorefraction and A-scan ultrasound, respectively. The glucagon antagonist inhibited hyperopia development, albeit only in a narrow concentration range, and at most by 50%, but not myopia development. In contrast, the agonist inhibited myopia development in a dose-dependent fashion. At high concentrations, it also prevented hyperopia development. The amount of glucagon peptide in the retinae and choroids of lens-treated chicks and its diurnal variation was measured by using a radio-immunoassay. Retinal glucagon content decreased after minus lens treatment and choroidal glucagon content increased after plus lens treatment. No diurnal variation in the retinal amount of glucagon was detected. In addition, using an optokinetic nystagmus paradigm, the effect of glucagon and the antagonist des-His1-Glu9-glucagon-amide on suprathreshold contrast sensitivity was studied. Glucagon reduced contrast sensitivity (which might be linked to a signal for growth inhibition) whereas the antagonist des-His1-Glu9-glucagon-amide increased contrast sensitivity. The results of the study are in line with the hypothesis that glucagon plays a role in the visual control of eye growth in the chick.