The effect of the imidazoline compound LY374284 has been studied in pancreatic islets of db/db mice, a progressive model of diabetes. In perifusion experiments, pancreatic islets of db/db mice showed a progressive deterioration of glucose-induced insulin release with increasing age, whereby the first phase of insulin secretion was almost completely abolished and the second phase was substantially decreased by 15 weeks of age. LY374284 restored the first phase of glucose-induced insulin secretion in islets of 16-week-old db/db mice to 70% of that observed in islets isolated from age-matched nondiabetic db/1 mice. LY374284 did not affect insulin secretion at a low glucose concentration (3.3 mmol/L). A similar restoration of first phase insulin secretion was observed after application of glucagon-like peptide-1, whereas a sulfonylurea agent, tolbutamide, was inactive. LY374284 did not affect cytosolic Ca(2+) concentration or cellular ATP content. Furthermore, LY374284 strongly enhanced insulin secretion in islets of db/db and db/1 mice maximally depolarized by 30 mmol/L K(+) and 250 micromol/L diazoxide. The present data suggest that the imidazoline compound LY374284 restores biphasic insulin secretion in islets of diabetic db/db mice by amplifying glucose-induced insulin secretion at a site distal to Ca(2+)-influx.