Islets of rat fetuses born to mothers fed a low protein diet (LP) have a depressed insulin secretion in vitro in response to secretagogues. These fetuses have lower plasma levels of taurine than controls. The aim of this study was to analyze the effect of taurine on fetal islets insulin secretion. After 5 days of culture in serum containing standard RPMI medium, islets were cultured for 2 days in serum-free DME/F12 medium with 8·2 or 16·7 mm glucose alone or with taurine at 0·3 or 3 mm. They were then incubated for 120 min in Krebs Ringer solution with glucose alone (5·6 or 16·7 mm) or glucose (5·6 mm) added to leucine or arginine (both at 10 mm). In both concentrations of glucose, taurine increased the fractional insulin release by islets stimulated with secretagogues tested during the incubation. The effect did not seem to be mediated by changes in cAMP content. In a second set of experiments, islets cultured in RPMI medium for 7 days were incubated in the presence of Krebs Ringer solution with leucine (10 mm) or with sulfur amino acids (taurine at 10 mm, methionine or cysteine at 5 mm) for 120 min. Taurine and methionine stimulated insulin release at the same magnitude as leucine, whereas cysteine had no effect. In conclusion, taurine enhances insulin secretion by fetal islets, at least in vitro. Low taurine levels in fetuses from LP mothers might be implicated in their depressed insulin secretion.