A method is developed for the preparation of single, pure, and viable rat pancreatic A and B cells in numbers sufficient for in vitro analysis. Islet isolation and dissociation techniques have been modified to increase the yield in islet cells per pancreas and per experiment. Islet cells are separated on the basis of their light scatter activity and flavin adenine dinucleotide autofluorescence into single non-B cells, single B cells, and structurally coupled B cells. Islet non-B cells are further purified into single A cells by autofluorescence-activated sorting according to the cellular nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate content at 20 mM glucose. Apart from offering the advantage of separating cells according to their functional characteristics, this procedure succeeds in the simultaneous isolation of 95-100% pure A and B cells. More than 50% of the cells in the initial islet preparation are recovered as single purified cells which can be maintained in culture. The isolated pancreatic A and B cells have been defined in terms of their cell volume, DNA and hormone content, and ultrastructural characteristics. The availability of pure pancreatic A and B cells is expected to contribute to our understanding of the regulation of glucagon and insulin release.