The stimulation of insulin secretion from the beta cells of the islets of Langerhans appears to be mediated by a decrease in the cell-membrane potassium-ion permeability. Tolbutamide reduced K+ movement through an ATP-sensitive K+ channel in patches of plasma membrane from an insulin-producing cell line when applied to the external surface of the membrane. The effect occurred at concentrations which exist in the serum of patients treated with tolbutamide and which stimulate insulin secretion from islets of Langerhans in vitro. Glibenclamide had a similar effect but, in keeping with its greater therapeutic potency, at concentrations one hundred times lower. These findings suggest that an ATP-sensitive K+ channel or a protein closely associated with it may be the receptor through which sulphonylureas act to stimulate insulin secretion in vitro.