1. The effects of a rat brain extract containing clonidine-displacing substance (CDS), a putative endogenous imidazoline receptor ligand, on insulin release from rat and human isolated islets of Langerhans were investigated. 2. CDS was able to potentiate the insulin secretory response of rat islets incubated at 6 mM glucose, in a dose-dependent manner. The magnitude of this effect was similar to that in response to the well-characterized imidazoline secretagogue, efaroxan. 3. CDS, like other imidazoline secretagogues, was also able to reverse the inhibitory action of diazoxide on glucose-induced insulin release, in both rat and human islets. 4. These effects of CDS on secretion were reversed by the imidazoline secretagogue antagonists, RX801080 and the newly defined KU14R, providing the first evidence that imidazoline-mediated actions of CDS can be blocked by specific imidazoline antagonists. 5. The effects of CDS on insulin secretion were unaffected when the method of preparation involved centri-filtration through a 3,000 Da cut-off membrane or when the extract was treated with protease. These results confirm that the active principle is of low molecular weight and is not a peptide. 6. Overall, the data suggest that CDS behaves as a potent endogenous insulin secretagogue acting at the islet imidazoline receptor.