We have examined the effect of chronic (4 wk) hyperglycemia on insulin secretion in vivo in an awake, unstressed rat model. Three groups of animals were examined: control, partial (90%) pancreatectomy, and partial pancreatectomy plus phlorizin, in order to normalize plasma glucose levels. Insulin secretion in response to arginine (2 mM), hyperglycemia (+100 mg/dl), and arginine plus hyperglycemia was evaluated. In diabetic compared with control animals three specific alterations were observed: (a) a deficient insulin response, in both first and second phases, to hyperglycemia; (b) an augmented insulin response to the potentiating effect of arginine under basal glycemic conditions; and (c) an inability of hyperglycemia to augment the potentiating effect of arginine above that observed under basal glycemic conditions. Normalization of the plasma glucose profile by phlorizin treatment in diabetic rats completely corrected all three beta cell abnormalities. These results indicate that chronic hyperglycemia can lead to a defect in in vivo insulin secretion which is reversible when normoglycemia is restored.