The aim of this study was to determine whether a physiological increment in plasma insulin could promote substantial hepatic glucose uptake in response to hyperglycemia brought about by intravenous glucose infusion in the conscious dog. To accomplish this, the plasma glucose level was doubled by glucose infusion into 36-h fasted dogs maintained on somatostatin, basal glucagon, and basal or elevated intraportal insulin infusions. In the group with basal glucagon levels and modest hyperinsulinemia (33 +/- 2 micro U/ml), the acute induction of hyperglycemia (mean increment of 120 mg/dl) caused marked net hepatic glucose uptake (3.7 +/- 0.5 mg . kg-1 . min-1). In contrast, similar hyperglycemia brought about in the presence of basal glucagon and basal insulin levels described net hepatic glucose output in 56%, but did not cause net hepatic glucose uptake. The length of fast was not crucial to the response because similar signals (insulin, 38 +/- 6 micro U/ml; glucose increment, 127 mg/dl) promoted identical net hepatic glucose uptake (3.8 +/- 0.6 mg . kg-1 . min-1) in dogs fasted for only 16 h. In conclusion, in the conscious dog, a) physiologic increments in plasma insulin have a marked effect on the ability of hyperglycemia to stimulate net hepatic glucose uptake, and b) it is not necessary to administer glucose orally to promote substantial net hepatic glucose uptake.