Rat insulinoma-derived INS-1 cells constitute a widely used beta-cell surrogate. However, due to their nonclonal nature, INS-1 cells are heterogeneous and are not stable over extended culture periods. We have isolated clonal INS-1E cells from parental INS-1 based on both their insulin content and their secretory responses to glucose. Here we describe the stable differentiated INS-1E beta-cell phenotype over 116 passages (no. 27-142) representing a 2.2-yr continuous follow-up. INS-1E cells can be safely cultured and used within passages 40-100 with average insulin contents of 2.30 +/- 0.11 microg/million cells. Glucose-induced insulin secretion was dose-related and similar to rat islet responses. Secretion saturated with a 6.2-fold increase at 15 mm glucose, showing a 50% effective concentration of 10.4 mm. Secretory responses to amino acids and sulfonylurea were similar to those of islets. Moreover, INS-1E cells retained the amplifying pathway, as judged by glucose-evoked augmentation of insulin release in a depolarized state. Regarding metabolic parameters, INS-1E cells exhibited glucose dose-dependent elevations of NAD(P)H, cytosolic Ca(2+), and mitochondrial Ca(2+) levels. In contrast, mitochondrial membrane potential, ATP levels, and cell membrane potential were all fully activated by 7.5 mm glucose. Using the perforated patch clamp technique, 7.5 and 15 mm glucose elicited electrical activity to a similar degree. A K(ATP) current was identified in whole cell voltage clamp using diazoxide and tolbutamide. As in native beta-cells, tolbutamide induced electrical activity, indicating that the K(ATP)conductance is important in setting the resting potential. Therefore, INS-1E cells represent a stable and valuable beta-cell model.