PACAP and GLP-1 depolarize pancreatic beta cells and stimulate insulin secretion in the presence of glucose. Depolarization occurs through at least two distinct mechanisms: (1) closure of ATP-sensitive K+ channels, and (2) activation of nonselective cation channels (NSCCs). Under physiological conditions the NSCCs carry a predominantly Na(+)-dependent current. The current may also have a Ca2+ component, but this remains to be determined. Acting together, these two signaling systems reinforce each other and serve to promote membrane depolarization, a rise of [Ca2+]i, and exocytosis of insulin-containing secretory granules. The NSCCs in beta cells are dually regulated by intracellular cAMP and [Ca2+]i. In view of this dual regulation, it appears likely that NSCC channel activation results from signaling events occurring not only at the plasma membrane (gating of channels by cAMP; protein kinase A-mediated phosphorylation of channels) but also at intracellular sites (mobilization of calcium stores by an as yet to be determined process). It is noteworthy that activation of NSCCs has also been reported following stimulation of beta-cells with maitotoxin, or after depletion of intracellular Ca2+ stores. Therefore, the possibility arises that PACAP, GLP-1, and maitotoxin all act on the same types of ion channels in these cells, and that these channels are sensitive to alterations in the content of intracellular calcium. FIGURE 6 summarizes our current knowledge concerning the properties of the PACAP and GLP-1 signaling systems as they pertain to the regulation of NSCCs and intracellular calcium homeostasis in the beta cell. Given that PACAP and GLP-1 are proven to be exceptionally potent insulin secretagogues, it is of considerable interest to determine their usefulness as blood glucose-lowering agents. Initial evaluations of the therapeutic effectiveness of GLP-1 indicate a role for this peptide in the treatment of NIDDM, and also possibly insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). A very attractive feature of such a strategy is the demonstrated lack of hypoglycemic side effects attendant to administration of GLP-1 to diabetic subjects. These observations reinforce the notion that peptides of the PACAP/glucagon/VIP family represent important pharmacological tools for use in experimental therapeutics.