An understanding of the metabolic abnormalities rising from inappropriate insulin delivery in diabetic patients demands a knowledge of 24-h and basal insulin secretion rates in normal man. We have used biosynthetic human C-peptide to determine its kinetic parameters in 10 normal subjects and applied these to measurements of plasma concentrations in the same subjects to determine pancreatic secretion rate. Metabolic clearance rate measured by stepped primed infusion of biosynthetic human C-peptide at rates of 10, 19 and 26 nmol/h was 4.7 +/- 0.7 (+/- SD) ml X kg-1 X min-1, and was independent of infusion rate. Fractional clearance (T1/2, 26 +/- 3 min) and distribution volume (0.178 +/- 0.039 l/kg) were calculated from the decline in concentration after cessation of the highest rate infusion. Basal insulin secretion calculated from the C-peptide metabolic clearance rate and plasma concentrations for the period 02.00 to 07.00 hours was 1.3 +/- 0.4 U/h. Over 24 h total insulin secretion on a standard high carbohydrate diet was 63 +/- 15 U, calculated from the area under the C-peptide concentration curve. Basal insulin secretion, therefore, accounted for 50 +/- 8% of total insulin secretion. Although only 5.6 +/- 1.1% of C-peptide was detected in 24-h urine collections, urinary C-peptide excretion was significantly related to 24-h C-peptide secretion (r = 0.74, p less than 0.02).