Insulin secretion from perifused islets of preobese, 2-week-old, genetically obese (ob/ob) mice and their lean littermates was examined to identify early-onset abnormalities in regulation of insulin secretion by ob/ob mice. The ob/ob mice were slightly hyperinsulinemic (+20%) and hypoglycemic (-12%) at 2 weeks of age. Pancreatic islet size, DNA content, and insulin content were similar in ob/ob and lean mice. The responsiveness of islets to glucose, as determined by 20 mM glucose-induced insulin secretion, and the sensitivity of islets to glucose, as determined by the glucose threshold for insulin secretion, were unaffected by phenotype, but two insulin secretagogues that potentiate glucose-induced insulin secretion via activation of the phospholipase-C signal transduction pathway (i.e. acetylcholine, and cholecystokinin) were more effective in stimulating insulin secretion from islets of ob/ob mice than from islets of lean mice. Both responsiveness and sensitivity to acetylcholine and cholecystokinin potentiation of glucose-induced insulin secretion were enhanced in islets from ob/ob mice. Further, glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide, which stimulates glucose-induced insulin secretion via activation of adenylate cyclase, interacted with acetylcholine to further augment differences in insulin secretion between islets from ob/ob and lean mice. The signal transduction pathway common to acetylcholine and cholecystokinin, and cross-talk between this pathway and the glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide signal transduction pathway are loci for early-onset defects in control of insulin secretion from islets of ob/ob mice.