When isolated rat pancreatic islets are treated with 16.7 mM glucose, a time-dependent potentiation (TDP) of insulin release occurs that can be detected by subsequent treatment with 50 mM KCl. It has been thought that TDP by glucose is a Ca2+-dependent phenomenon and only occurs when exposure to glucose is carried out in the presence of Ca2+. In contrast to this, we now demonstrate TDP under stringent Ca2+-free conditions (Ca2+-free buffer containing 1 mM EGTA). In fact, under these Ca2+-free conditions glucose caused an even stronger TDP than in the presence of Ca2+. TDP induced by glucose in the absence of extracellular Ca2+ was unaffected by inhibitors of protein kinase C (PKC). However, cerulenin or tunicamycin, two inhibitors of protein acylation, eradicated TDP without affecting glucose metabolism. The TDP by glucose was not associated with an increase in the cytosolic free Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) during subsequent treatment with high K+. Exposure of islets to forskolin under Ca(2+)-free conditions did not cause TDP despite a large increase in the cellular cAMP levels. In conclusion, glucose alone induces TDP under stringent Ca2+-free conditions when [Ca2+]i was significantly lowered. Protein acylation is implicated in the underlying mechanism of TDP.