The complete time-action profiles of four subcutaneously injected human NPH insulin preparations (Protaphane HM/Novo; Insulatard Human/Nordisk; Huminsulin Basal/Eli Lilly; Basal H-Insulin/Hoechst) have been investigated by means of the euglycaemic clamp technique (blood glucose 5.0 mmol l-1). Six normal male subjects were connected to a Biostator on five occasions in randomized order including a control study without insulin injection. A stable basal insulin level of about 10 mU l-1 was established by means of a low dose insulin infusion (0.1 mU kg-1 min-1) which subsequently suppressed C-peptide by 35 +/- 19% (mean +/- SD) to levels of around 0.3 nmol l-1. Twelve units of NPH insulin were injected subcutaneously into the abdominal wall and glucose infusion rates were monitored for 19 h. In the control study, the mean glucose infusion rate was 1.11 +/- 0.60 (range 0.32-1.95) mg kg-1 min-1. Maximal glucose infusion rates, reached 5-7 h after injection, were comparable (4.3-4.9 mg kg-1 min-1) for the four different preparations used. Glucose infusion rates returned to basal rates within the 19 h study period. Mean plasma free insulin levels peaked at 17.5-18.6 mU l-1 3-4.5 h after injection and returned to basal levels within 16 h. The time ranges of greater than 90, greater than 75, greater than 50, and greater than 25% of maximal insulin action (as estimated from glucose infusion rates) revealed no significant differences between the four insulin preparations tested. No significant insulin action was observed beyond 17 h after insulin injection of any preparation.