In microsomes obtained from mouse pancreatic islets, the Mg complex of adenosine 5'-triphosphate (MgATP) increased the dissociation constant (KD) for binding of [3H]glibenclamide by sixfold. In the presence of Mg2+, not only ATP but also adenosine 5'-0-(3-thiotriphosphate) (ATP gamma S), adenosine 5'-diphosphate (ADP), guanosine 5'-triphosphate (GTP), guanosine 5'-diphosphate (GDP), guanosine 5'-0-(3-thiotriphosphate) (GTP gamma S) and guanosine 5'-0-(2-thiodiphosphate) (GDP beta S) inhibited binding of [3H]glibenclamide. These effects were not observed in the absence of Mg2+. Half maximally effective concentrations of the Mg complexes of ATP, ADP, ATP gamma S and GDP were 11.6, 19.0, 62.3 and 90.1 mumol/l, respectively. The non-hydrolyzable analogues adenosine 5'-(beta,gamma-imidotriphosphate) (AMP-PNP) and guanosine 5'-(beta,gamma-imidotriphosphate) (GMP-PNP) did not alter [3H]glibenclamide binding in the presence of Mg2+, MgADP acted much more slowly than MgATP and both MgADP and MgGDP did not inhibit [3H]glibenclamide binding when the concentrations of MgATP and MgGTP were kept low by the hexokinase reaction. Development of MgATP-induced inhibition of [3H]glibenclamide binding and dissociation of [3H]glibenclamide binding occurred at similar rates. However, the reversal of MgATP-induced inhibition of [3H]glibenclamide binding was slower than the association of [3H]glibenclamide with its binding site. Exogenous alkaline phosphatase accelerated the reversal of MgATP-induced inhibition of [3H]glibenclamide binding. MgATP enhanced displacement of [3H]glibenclamide binding by diazoxide. The data suggest that sulfonylureas and diazoxide exert their effects by interaction with the same binding site at the sulfonylurea receptor and that protein phosphorylation modulates the affinity of the receptor.