The relationship between altered insulin secretion and impaired glucose tolerance was studied in 32 non-obese subjects aged 14-49 years with islet-cell antibodies (ICA) and fasting blood glucose below 7.9 mmol/l, using oral (OGTT) and intravenous (IVGTT) glucose tolerance tests. Glucose tolerance was normal in 19 subjects, impaired (IGT) in 4 and satisfied diabetic criteria in 9. Fifteen of these subjects and 8 ICA-negative controls also underwent a hyperglycaemic clamp (10 mmol/l) and a glucose-potentiated IV arginine bolus. Acute insulin response to IVGTT and insulin and C-peptide responses to the hyperglycaemic clamp and the arginine bolus were dramatically lower (p < 0.001) in diabetic and IGT subjects than in ICA-positive patients with normal glucose tolerance and control subjects. Insulin responses to the three tests were inversely correlated with plasma glucose levels and the area under the curve of OGTT. The correlations between the degree of glucose tolerance and insulin responses to IVGTT, the hyperglycaemic clamp and the arginine bolus were virtually identical. It is concluded that insulin responses to the three stimuli were severely altered in ICA-positive patients with impaired glucose tolerance or asymptomatic diabetes, normal in normotolerant ICA-positive subjects, and correlated with glucose tolerance.