Because glucose-stimulated insulin secretion is selectively impaired during the development of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), we tested the possibility that the glucose transporter of pancreatic islet beta cells is a target of the autoimmune process in patients with IDDM. We measured the uptake of 3-O-methyl-beta-D-glucose by dispersed islet cells from rats after a 15-minute incubation with purified IgG from 27 patients with newly diagnosed IDDM, 28 normal subjects, and 5 patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). The IgG fractions from 26 of the 27 patients with IDDM (96 percent), but from none of the 5 patients with NIDDM, reduced the initial rates of 3-O-methyl-beta-D-glucose uptake to at least 1 SD below the mean of the rates observed in the presence of IgG fractions from normal subjects (P less than 0.001). In contrast, the uptake of L-leucine by islet cells was not affected by any of the IgG fractions. The inhibitory activity of IgG from the patients with IDDM was abolished by preincubation with islet cells and membranes from hepatocytes, which contain the same glucose transporter as beta cells, but not with erythrocytes, which do not contain this transporter. We conclude that IgG from patients with IDDM of recent onset, but not from those with NIDDM, inhibits glucose uptake by rat islet cells. The results are consistent with the presence of an antibody against a protein involved in glucose transport by beta cells that would thereby impair glucose-stimulated insulin secretion.