Cytosolic free calcium [( Ca2+]i) was measured using fura 2 in the whole pancreatic islets obtained from male Wistar rats by collagenase dispersion. The pattern of change of [Ca2+]i in response to high glucose, potassium (K+) depolarization or the removal of extracellular calcium was compared with the temporal profile of insulin secretion. Twenty-nine mM glucose produced a gradual increase in [Ca2+]i with approximately 1.5 min of latency period. It remained elevated until the end of observation period (25 min) during which period the first phase of insulin secretion ceased and the second phase of secretion gradually increased. Depolarizing concentration of KCl also produced an elevation of [Ca2+]i, without detectable latency period, which lasted at a sustained level for the entire observation period (30 min). KCl caused a rapid increase of insulin secretion followed by a gradually decreasing level of secretion. Elevated [Ca2+]i and insulin secretion in response to high glucose returned to the basal level when external calcium was removed by the addition of EGTA. We conclude that high glucose and K+ depolarization raise [Ca2+]i in the pancreatic islet. However, the elevation of [Ca2+]i and insulin secretion are not always correlated in the later period of stimulation.