In the experimental animal chronic hyperglycemia alters the islet's sensitivity to glucose. In the present study the glucose sensitivity of human pancreatic islets, isolated and purified, obtained from seven human pancreases using an automated method was evaluated. After a 12-h stabilization period, islets were cultured for 48 h in normal (5.5 mmol/L) or high glucose (16.7 mmol/L) medium. Islets were then perifused to study their insulin response to glucose. Islets cultured in the high glucose medium lost glucose-induced insulin release and, when challenged with an acute fall of glucose concentration in the perifusate, showed a paradoxical insulin release. Insulin release in response to 10 mmol/L L-arginine was preserved in these islets, suggesting a selective reduction of the insulin response to glucose. An additional 48-h culture in 5.5 mmol/L glucose medium partially restored the sensitivity to glucose of the previously unresponsive islets. These findings indicate that short term exposure to high glucose concentrations induces a selective glucose insensitivity of human islets, which can be partially reversed by an additional culture in normal glucose medium.