Clarification of the molecular mechanisms of insulin secretion is crucial for understanding the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of diabetes and for development of novel therapeutic strategies for the disease. Insulin secretion is regulated by various intracellular signals generated by nutrients and hormonal and neural inputs. In addition, a variety of glucose-lowering drugs including sulfonylureas, glinide-derivatives, and incretin-related drugs such as dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP-4) inhibitors and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists are used for glycaemic control by targeting beta cell signalling for improved insulin secretion. There has been a remarkable increase in our understanding of the basis of beta cell signalling over the past two decades following the application of molecular biology, gene technology, electrophysiology and bioimaging to beta cell research. This review discusses cell signalling in insulin secretion, focusing on the molecular targets of ATP, cAMP and sulfonylurea, an essential metabolic signal in glucose-induced insulin secretion (GIIS), a critical signal in the potentiation of GIIS, and the commonly used glucose-lowering drug, respectively.