This study examined whether physiological changes in glucagon alter net hepatic glucose uptake (NHGU) or glycogen synthesis under conditions of hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, and portal vein glucose concentrations exceeding those in the arterial circulation. Somatostatin was infused into 42-h-fasted dogs, insulin and glucagon were replaced intraportally at basal rates, and peripheral infusion of glucose maintained the hepatic glucose load twofold basal for 90 min (period 1). In period 2 (240 min) the insulin infusion was increased fourfold, glucose was infused intraportally, the hepatic glucose load was twofold basal, and glucagon was infused to create levels 150% basal (HiGGN, n = 6) or 40% basal (LoGGN, n = 6). NHGU rates (mg.kg-1.min-1) were low during period 1 (-0.9 +/- 0.7 in LoGGN and -0.2 +/- 0.4 in HiGGN, not significant) but increased during period 2 (-4.1 +/- 0.6 in LoGGN and -1.9 +/- 0.2 in HiGGN, P < 0.05). Endogenous glucose production (Endo Ra) declined during period 2 in LoGGN (P < 0.01 vs. basal) but did not change in HiGGN. Tracer-determined hepatic glucose uptake did not differ between groups. The poststudy increment in liver glycogen synthase I (12.5 +/- 3 vs. 6.5 +/- 2% of total) was greater in LoGGN (P < 0.05), as was net glycogen synthesis (27 +/- 8 vs. 13 +/- 3 mg/g liver, P = 0.06). An elevation in glucagon reduced NHGU (because of failure to suppress Endo Ra) and glycogen synthase activation and tended to reduce glycogen deposition.