To determine whether insulin secretion is affected by a blockage of gap junctions between B cells, we have studied the secretion of rat pancreatic islets of Langerhans, primary dispersed islet cells, and cells of the RINm5F line, during short-term exposure to heptanol. Within minutes, this alkanol blocked gap junctions between the B cells of intact islets and abolished their normal secretory response to glucose. These two changes were rapidly and fully reversible after return of the islets to control medium. We further found that heptanol had no significant effect on the glucose-stimulated secretion of single B cells but inhibited that of B cell pairs. In the clone of RINm5F cells, whose junctional coupling and D-glyceraldehyde-induced stimulation of insulin release by aggregated cells were also inhibited by heptanol, this alkanol did not perturb intracellular pH and Ca2+ and the most distal steps of the secretion pathway. In summary, a gap junction blocker affected the secretion of insulin-producing cells by a mechanism which is dependent on cell contact and is not associated with detectable pleiotropic perturbations of the cell secretory machinery. The data provide evidence for the involvement of junctional coupling in the control of insulin secretion.