The effects of arginine-vasopressin (AVP) on hormone release by the endocrine pancreas have been studied with incubated islets from normal mice. A wide range of AVP concentrations (1 pM-100 nM) were tested in the presence of various glucose concentrations. AVP did not affect somatostatin release in a glucose-free medium but increased it in the presence of all tested glucose concentrations (3-30 mM). The lowest effective concentration was 1 mM and the effect was not yet maximal at 100 nM AVP. AVP markedly increased glucagon release in the absence of glucose. Its effect was attenuated but not abolished when glucagon release was inhibited by glucose. Surprisingly, the attenuation of the effect of AVP was stronger in 3-10 mM than in 15-30 mM glucose. The lowest effective concentration was 1 nM and the effect was not yet maximal at 100 nM AVP. AVP was ineffective on basal insulin release (0, 3 and 7 mM glucose), but potentiated the effect of 10, 15 and 30 mM glucose. The lowest effective concentration was 0.1-1 nM AVP and the maximal effect was produced by 10-100 nM AVP. The results suggest a direct action of AVP on each of the three islet cell types which display a roughly similar sensitivity to the peptide. This sensitivity is too low to make islet cells a possible target for circulating AVP under physiological conditions. On the other hand, the presence of AVP in the pancreas suggests that it might be involved in the peptidergic control of islet function.