Relatively little is known about the hormonal regulation of amino acid transport in the normal and diabetic exocrine pancreas. In this study unidirectional influx and tracer efflux of L-serine at the basolateral interface of the rat pancreatic epithelium was investigated in the perfused exocrine pancreas using a rapid (less than 30 s) paired-tracer dilution technique. In the non-diabetic pancreas L-serine influx was saturable and stimulated by perfusion with exogenous bovine insulin (100 microU/ml). Transport of L-serine and methylaminoisobutyric acid was markedly elevated in pancreata isolated from streptozotocin diabetic rats and insulin partially reversed the stimulation of L-serine transport induced by experimental diabetes. These results suggest that insulin and diabetes modulate the epithelial transport activity for small neutral amino acids in the intact exocrine pancreas.