An in-vitro perifusion system was devised in order to examine the secretory profiles of isolated islets of Langerhans, derived from different physiological states, when subjected to various stimuli relevant to lactation. Islets from pregnant rats secreted more insulin than did those from virgin animals; however, islets from lactating and virgin animals secreted similar amounts of insulin with all stimuli, including glucose, amino acids, cations and neurotransmitters. When virgin rats were pretreated for 5 days in vivo with GH or prolactin, insulin responses in vitro were unchanged. Cannulation of the hepatic portal vein and inferior vena cava in vivo revealed that both insulin and glucose concentrations were lower in the portal vein of the lactating rat compared with the virgin animal. It was therefore concluded that insulin concentrations are depressed during lactation as a consequence of the pancreas receiving a diminished glycaemic stimulus rather than because of any change in beta-cell sensitivity.