The second messenger role of ATP in insulin secretion was investigated in living INS-1 insulinoma cells. ATP-dependent luminescence was monitored in cells expressing high levels of firefly luciferase under the control of the tetracycline-dependent transactivator. The calibration of luminescence in permeabilized cells yielded similar ATP levels as those obtained in cell extracts with a conventional ATP assay. Stimulation of insulin secretion by glucose or methyl-succinate was correlated with rises of cellular ATP in simultaneous measurements. ATP generation was decreased by inhibition of the ADP-ATP translocase. This approach demonstrates the feasibility of defining the dynamic relationship between ATP and other parameters involved in metabolism-secretion coupling.