Human and rat insulin cells show insulin immunoreactivity, and glucagon cells show glucagon immunoreactivity on their membrane surfaces, respectively. The reaction occurs in the form of small dots on the islet cell surface and colocalizes with the chromogranin family of secretory granule markers. Electron microscopy reveals the labeling to occur at sites of exocytotic granule release, involving the surfaces of extruded granule cores. The surfaces of islet cells were labeled both by polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies, excluding that receptor-interacting, anti-idiotypic hormone antibodies were responsible for the staining. Human insulin cells were surface-labeled by monoclonal antibodies recognizing the mature secretory products, insulin and C-peptide but not with monoclonal antibodies specific for proinsulin. Thus, routing of unprocessed preproinsulin to the cell surface may not account for these results. It is concluded that the staining reflects interactions between the appropriate antibodies and exocytotic sites of hormone release.