We evaluated beta-cell secretory capacity over 60 minutes in response to oral glucose (75 g) followed 30 minutes later by the intravenous injection of tolbutamide 0,5 g and glucagon 1 mg (combined) in 10 black and 8 white obese non-diabetic female volunteers. Thirty minutes after oral glucose administration both insulin and C-peptide levels were significantly higher in the white group. The levels of both substances after tolbutamide-glucagon stimulation were likewise higher in the white group at all times, being significantly so 30 minutes after the injection. Hepatic extraction of insulin, calculated as the C-peptide: insulin molar ratio, was similar in both groups. These results indicate that the beta-cell secretory capacity of black obese subjects is less than that of whites. In response to insulin-induced hypoglycaemia in 6 of the black and 5 of the white subjects, the pancreatic glucagon rise was lower in the black group, despite greater falls in plasma glucose levels. In view of this finding it is possible that blacks may be at risk of slower recovery from insulin-induced hypoglycaemia.