Recent evidence suggests that a number of a paracrine regulatory peptides, including neuropeptide-Y (NPY), are synthesized within pancreatic islets. We have, therefore, assessed the role of NPY on insulin release from isolated perifused rat islets. NPY release was detectable at 2.1 (95% confidence interval, 1.6-2.6) attomoles/islet.min from the perifused islets of control rats when the glucose concentration was 2.8 mM and decreased by 62% (P = 0.01) on changing to 20 mM glucose. The initial insulin release was 0.7 (0.3-1.6) fmol/islet.min, and it was increased 4-fold (P < 0.001) by high glucose. Simultaneously, pancreatic glucagon release was decreased 85% (P < 0.001), and somatostatin release was decreased 25% (P = 0.06). In contrast, in islets from rats given dexamethasone (4 mg/kg.day) for 10 days, NPY release was 6-fold increased by high glucose. NPY (100 nM) decreased insulin release by 44% (P < 0.001). To determine the influence of naturally present islet NPY on insulin release, immunoneutralization with NPY antiserum was employed. With control rat islets, insulin release was increased 3-fold with NPY antiserum (P = 0.02) in the presence of 2.8 mM glucose and elevated 2-fold at 8 mM glucose (P < 0.001). NPY immunoneutralization similarly increased insulin release from the perifused islets of rats treated with dexamethasone. Our results suggest that NPY is produced by pancreatic islets, and its expression is dependent on the prevailing endocrine environment. Islet NPY appears to constrain insulin release under a variety of conditions. NPY may be an important intraislet paracrine hormone.