The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a 48-h glucose (30% wt/vol) infusion in unrestrained catheterized healthy rats (HG) on subsequent in vivo and in vitro insulin response to glucose. High hyperglycemia (400-450 mg/dl) and resulting hyperinsulinemia (1.2 +/- 0.1 mU/ml vs. 0.15 +/- 0.03 mU/ml in controls) were maintained throughout the infusion period. Glucose-induced insulin secretion was examined in vivo 3 h after the end of infusion by performing either a glucose tolerance test or a hyperglycemic clamp (225 mg/dl for 60 min). In addition, in vivo insulin secretion was studied on day 1, 3, 5, and 7 after the end of glucose infusion by performing glucose tolerance tests. Insulin secretion was also investigated in vitro, using the isolated perfused pancreas technique, 3 h and 1 day post glucose infusion. During glucose tolerance tests and hyperglycemic clamps performed at 3 h, insulin secretion was much greater in HG rats than in controls, and remained increased until day 5. By contrast, when studied in vitro 3 h after the end of the infusion, glucose-induced insulin release from isolated perfused pancreases was impaired in HG rats as compared with controls, and the insulin response to arginine was dramatically increased. However, insulin secretion in vitro returned partially to normal after day 1. These data indicate that prolonged hyperglycemia has quite different effects on the subsequent insulin secretion in vivo or in vitro. It impairs, but reversibly, glucose-induced insulin secretion in vitro, whereas it increases it durably in vivo. This suggests that humoral and/or nervous interferences can counterbalance the possible perturbing effects of prolonged hyperglycemia on the normal B cell responsiveness to glucose.