Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) is a 30-amino acid peptide hormone produced in the intestinal epithelial endocrine L-cells by differential processing of proglucagon, the gene which is expressed in these cells. The current knowledge regarding regulation of proglucagon gene expression in the gut and in the brain and mechanisms responsible for the posttranslational processing are reviewed. GLP-1 is released in response to meal intake, and the stimuli and molecular mechanisms involved are discussed. GLP-1 is extremely rapidly metabolized and inactivated by the enzyme dipeptidyl peptidase IV even before the hormone has left the gut, raising the possibility that the actions of GLP-1 are transmitted via sensory neurons in the intestine and the liver expressing the GLP-1 receptor. Because of this, it is important to distinguish between measurements of the intact hormone (responsible for endocrine actions) or the sum of the intact hormone and its metabolites, reflecting the total L-cell secretion and therefore also the possible neural actions. The main actions of GLP-1 are to stimulate insulin secretion (i.e., to act as an incretin hormone) and to inhibit glucagon secretion, thereby contributing to limit postprandial glucose excursions. It also inhibits gastrointestinal motility and secretion and thus acts as an enterogastrone and part of the "ileal brake" mechanism. GLP-1 also appears to be a physiological regulator of appetite and food intake. Because of these actions, GLP-1 or GLP-1 receptor agonists are currently being evaluated for the therapy of type 2 diabetes. Decreased secretion of GLP-1 may contribute to the development of obesity, and exaggerated secretion may be responsible for postprandial reactive hypoglycemia.