Gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP) and glucagon-like peptide-1-(7-36) amide (GLP-1) are glucose-dependent insulinotropic gut hormones that may explain the greater insulin secretory response with oral compared to i.v. glucose (incretin effect). To study their individual and combined contributions, in eight healthy volunteers, on separate occasions, synthetic human GIP (1 pmol/kg.min) and/or GLP-1 (0.3 pmol/kg.min) or placebo were infused i.v. (-30 to 120 min), while at 0 min, a glucose infusion "isoglycemic" to the profile after an oral glucose load of 50 g/400 mL was started. After the administration of 50 g oral glucose, immunoreactive GIP rose several-fold to 337 +/- 43 pmol/L, while there was only a transient (10-30 min) and moderate increment in immunoreactive GLP-1 (from basal, 25-30, to 41 +/- 4 pmol/L). Isoglycemic i.v. glucose infusions led to smaller B-cell responses (estimated incretin effect, 41 +/- 5%). With single infusions of GIP or GLP-1 (circulating concentrations, 464 +/- 73 and 54 +/- 3 pmol/L, respectively), B-cell responses were significantly augmented compared to i.v. glucose alone and were no longer significantly different from those after oral glucose. The combination of GIP and GLP-1 led to B-cell responses that were significantly higher than those with either hormone alone (additive mode of cooperation). Plasma GIP concentrations were similar after endogenous secretion (oral glucose) and i.v. infusion, while exogenously administered GLP-1 led to plasma levels that were maintained at an elevated level for a longer period during exogenous infusion than after stimulation by oral glucose. When, in seven volunteers, a lower dose (0.15 pmol/kg.min) of GLP-1 was infused during isoglycemic glucose infusion experiments only for the duration of elevated plasma levels in the oral glucose challenges (0-30 min), a significant, but transient, increment in insulin and C-peptide concentrations was observed, which was equivalent to 26 +/- 10% of the estimated incretin effect. Therefore, in conclusion, circulating GIP seems to make a major contribution to the incretin effect after oral glucose, and GLP-1 appears to mediate a smaller proportion. GIP and GLP-1 can interact in an additive manner in normal man.