This study examines the role of glucagon in the pathogenesis of the obese hyperglycaemic (ob/ob) syndrome in mice. Plasma C-terminal immunoreactive glucagon concentrations were measured in fed and fasted ob/ob mice at different ages between 5–40 weeks, and in 20-week-old mice after the administration of established stimulators and inhibitors of glucagon secretion. Plasma glucagon concentrations were inappropriately raised irrespective of age, nutritional status and the accompanying prominent changes in plasma glucose and insulin concentrations. Glucose suppressed plasma glucagon in the fed but not the fasted state, suggesting a dependence on the marked hyperinsulinaemia associated with feeding. Administration of 0·25 units insulin/kg to fasted mice failed to affect plasma glucagon and glucose concentrations. Increasing the dose to 100 units/kg restored the normal suppressive actions of insulin. Fasted mice showed an exaggerated glucagon response to arginine but not to the parasympathomimetic agent pilocarpine. Fed mice displayed normal plasma glucagon responses to the sympathomimetic agents noradrenaline and adrenaline. Administration of insulin antiserum or 2-deoxy-l-glucose raised plasma glucagon concentrations of fed mice. Contrary to the lack of suppression by glucose in the fasted state, heparin-induced increase in free fatty acids reduced plasma glucagon concentrations. This study demonstrates inappropriate hyperglucagonaemia and defective A-cell function in ob/ob mice. The extent of the abnormality is exacerbated by fasting and appears to result from insensitivity of the A-cell to the normal suppressive action of insulin.