Patients with uncontrolled insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus have elevations in plasma vasopressin that cannot be accounted for totally by recognized osmotic or nonosmotic stimuli. To investigate the possibility that regulation of vasopressin secretion is abnormal in this disease, we characterized the vasopressin response to osmotic and hemodynamic stimuli in five uncomplicated, well-controlled insulin-dependent diabetics, and compared the results with those found in nondiabetic volunteers. During osmotic stimulation with hypertonic saline, plasma vasopressin increased in close linear correlation with plasma osmolality or sodium in both groups. However, in the diabetics, the lines describing the relationships between plasma sodium and vasopressin were shifted significantly to the left of normal, suggesting resetting of the osmostat. This shift was not due to abnormal stimulation by hyperglycemia, because increasing plasma glucose and osmolality by intravenous infusion of hypertonic dextrose produced no increase in plasma vasopressin in diabetics or normals. Tilt tests produced a slightly exaggerated increase in plasma vasopressin in diabetics, but their basal and upright pulse rate, blood pressure, plasma renin activity, norepinephrine, and hematocrit were all normal. The results indicate that in diabetic patients the osmoreceptor for osmotic regulation of vasopressin secretion is reset in such a way that higher plasma vasopressin levels are observed at comparable levels of plasma sodium. The exact cause and consequence of this abnormality remain to be determined.