Recombinant interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta) was administered intraperitoneally for 3 days to normal C57BL/6ByJ (B6) mice. The islets from IL-1-treated and control animals were isolated and glucose-stimulated insulin secretion studied in the perifusion system. The total islet insulin content and the ultrastructure of the islets isolated from the animals treated with IL-1 did not differ from those seen in control animals. However, glucose-stimulated insulin release was significantly impaired after 3 days of in vivo administration of IL-1, either 3 micrograms/animal/day or 0.3 micrograms/animal/day. The administration of IL-1 inhibited an acute phase of glucose-induced insulin release, whereas neither basal insulin secretion nor insulin release from 10-30 min of perifusion with glucose was impaired. There was an only partial (27%) and non-significant restoration of the insulin secretory response to glucose stimulation 4 days after discontinuation of IL-1 treatment. We conclude that IL-1 administered in vivo is capable of adversely affecting pancreatic islet response to glucose stimulation. After 3 days of administration, these changes are confined to the process of insulin release, with the islet cell morphology and total insulin content being unaffected.