The rat islet cell line, RIN, established from a transplantable, radiation-induced islet cell tumor represents a unique model to study mechanisms in the control of insulin secretion and biosynthesis. In this study, we have examined the effects of glucose on the protooncogene expressioN and cell growth using a clonal strain of RIN cell, RINr, under serum-free and glucose-free conditions. After 24 h pretreatment, cells were treated with different concentrations of glucose for up to 24 h and then subjected to RNA analysis. Agarose gel electrophoresis of total RNA extracts of RINr cells, followed by hybridization with v-myc DNA yielded a 2.4 kilobase c-myc messenger RNA (mRNA) transcripts. After 24 h pretreatment with serum-free and glucose-free medium, RINr cells expressed a low level of c-myc mRNA transcripts. An increase in c-myc transcripts was detectable within 30 min of D-glucose (200 mg/dl) addition, reaching a maximum of 10-fold within 2 h. Glucose stimulated the steady state of c-myc mRNA transcripts in a dose-responsive manner without any change of gamma-actin mRNA levels after 2 h of treatment. The level of c-myc transcripts then declined as the cells proceeded through G1 to the cycle. [3H]Thymidine uptake into DNA was dramatically increased after 24 h of glucose addition, suggesting that glucose itself stimulates DNA synthesis in RINr cells. These results indicate that glucose-induced proliferation of RINr cells is associated with the stimulation of c-myc gene expression.