Our aim was to develop the glucose clamp (GC) technique in the conscious rat for assessment of in vivo insulin sensitivity. A 2-h euglycemic GC could be performed in chronically cannulated rats using 625 microliter blood. Overnight-fasted rats were infused with porcine insulin (1.67 mU . kg-1 . h-1). Insulin levels of 41 +/- 2 (SE) mU/liter were produced in rats aged 91 +/- 4 days with a 60- to 120-min glucose infusion rate (GIR60-120) of 10.6 +/- 0.6 mg . kg-1 . min-1 (n = 9) during euglycemia. GIR60-120 was significantly (P less than 0.025) reduced in rats aged greater than 130 days (mean, 169 +/- 16 days) to 7.7 +/- 1.2 mg . kg-1 . min-1 (n = 7). Metabolic clearance rate of porcine insulin (46 +/- 3 ml . kg-1 . min-1) and GIR60-120 compared with plateau plasma insulin levels are higher than values reported in humans. The latter may be due to suppression of a higher basal hepatic glucose production or increased potency of porcine compared with native insulin. We conclude that the GC can be accomplished in the rat. When combined with tracer administration and subsequent killing, it should provide a quantitative in vivo measurement of insulin sensitivity in individual tissues.