Elevated plasma homocysteine has been reported in individuals with diseases of the metabolic syndrome including vascular disease and insulin resistance. As homocysteine exerts detrimental effects on endothelial and neuronal cells, this study investigated effects of acute homocysteine exposure on beta-cell function and insulin secretion using clonal BRIN-BD11 beta-cells. Acute insulin release studies in the presence of various test reagents were performed using monolayers of BRIN-BD11 cells and samples assayed by insulin radioimmunoassay. Cellular glucose metabolism was assessed by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analysis following 60-min exposure of BRIN-BD11 cell monolayers to glucose in either the absence or presence of homocysteine. Homocysteine dose-dependently inhibited insulin release at moderate and stimulatory glucose concentrations. This inhibitory effect was reversible at all but the highest concentration of homocysteine. C-13-glucose NMR demonstrated decreased labelling of glutamate from glucose at positions C2, C3 and C4, indicating that the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle-dependent glucose metabolism was reduced in the presence of homocysteine. Homocysteine also dose-dependently inhibited insulinotropic responses to a range of glucose-dependent secretagogues including nutrients (alanine, arginine, 2-ketoisocaproate), hormones (glucagon-like peptide-1 (7-36)amide, gastric inhibitory polypeptide and cholecystokinin-8), neurotransmitter (carbachol), drug (tolbutamide) as well as a depolarising concentration of KCI or elevated Ca2+. Insulin secretion induced by activation of adenylate cyclase and protein kinase C pathways with forskolin and phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate were also inhibited by homocysteine. These effects were not associated with any adverse action on cellular insulin content or cell viability, and there was no increase in apoptosis/necrosis following exposure to homocysteine. These data indicate that homocysteine impairs insulin secretion through alterations in beta-cell glucose metabolism and generation of key stimulus-secretion coupling factors. The participation of homocysteine in possible beta-cell demise merits further investigation.