Corticosterone (0·6 μmol/l) inhibited both 45Ca outflow and insulin release evoked by glucose, the combination of leucine and glutamine, 2-ketoisocaproate, gliclazide or the association of gliclazide and a tumour-promoting phorbol ester in rat pancreatic islets perifused at normal extracellular Ca2+ concentration (1·0 mmol/l). In all cases, the inhibitory action of corticosterone reached statistical significance within 10–22 min of exposure to this steroid and failed to be rapidly reversible. Corticosterone failed to affect basal 45Ca outflow and insulin release. The steroid also failed to affect the inhibitory action of glucose upon 45Ca outflow, as judged from either the glucose-induced early fall in effluent radioactivity from islets maintained at normal extracellular Ca2+ concentration or the steady-state values for 45Ca outflow from glucose-stimulated but Ca2+-deprived islets. Corticosterone caused a modest increase in 86Rb outflow from islets perifused in the presence of glucose (16·7 mmol/l). It is concluded that corticosterone impairs Ca2+ inflow into the islet cells and, by doing so, causes a progressive inhibition of insulin release. The pancreatic B cell might thus serve as a further model for the study of the rapid biological response to steroids, as presumably mediated by alteration in the biophysical properties of the plasma membrane.