We investigated the major products of proglucagon (PG) processing in plasma in the fasting state, after intravenous arginine and after an oral glucose load in noninsulin-dependent diabetics (NIDDM) and in weight matched controls using specific radioimmunoassays and analytical gel filtration. In the fasting state the glucagonlike peptide-1 (GLP-1) immunoreactivity was significantly elevated in the NIDDM group compared with the control group. Both after intravenous arginine and after an oral glucose load a rise in the plasma concentrations of all immunoreactive moieties measured was seen. All integrated incremental responses after intravenous arginine were identical in the two groups. After oral glucose the insulin concentrations in plasma were lower and the concentrations of all proglucagon products were higher in the NIDDM group compared to the control group. The gel filtration analysis showed that arginine stimulated the secretion of pancreatic glucagon (PG 33-61), major proglucagon fragment (PG 72-158) and probably GLP-1 (PG 72-107 amide) in both groups, whereas oral glucose stimulated the secretion of glicentin (PG 1-69) and intestinal GLP-1 (PG 78-107 amide), an insulinotropic hormone. The elevated levels of immunoreactive GLP-1 in diabetics in the fasting state were mainly due to an increased concentration of major proglucagon fragment.