The secretion of insulin is controlled by the rate of glucose metabolism in the pancreatic beta cells. As phosphorylation by glucokinase (GLK) appears to be the rate-limiting step for glucose catabolism in beta cells, this enzyme may be the glucose sensor. To test this possibility and to resolve the relative roles of liver and beta cell GLK in maintaining glucose levels, we have generated mice completely deficient in GLK and transgenic mice in which GLK is expressed only in beta cells. In mice with only one GLK allele, blood glucose levels are elevated and insulin secretion is reduced. GLK-deficient mice die perinatally with severe hyperglycemia. Expression of GLK in beta cells in the absence of expression in the liver is sufficient for survival. These mice demonstrate the critical need for beta cell GLK in maintaining normal glucose levels and provide a novel model for one form of noninsulin-dependent diabetes.