A high level of nitric oxide (NO) produced by inducible NO synthase (iNOS) is involved in pancreatic beta-cell dysfunction and apoptosis. In the present study, we examined whether iNOS is also expressed in beta cells after induction of acute pancreatitis (AP) in the rat. Pancreatic islets taken from AP animals and incubated for 60 min in the presence of 20.0 mmol/l glucose showed a decreased insulin secretory response to glucose. The basal insulin release at 1.0 mmol/l glucose was also moderately reduced. Experiments on the dynamics of insulin secretion from perfused pancreas revealed an impairment of both first and second phase of glucose-stimulated insulin release after the induction of AP. Confocal microscopy demonstrated that most of the beta cells in pancreas of rat with AP expressed strong immunoreactivity for iNOS. This was further confirmed by biochemical and Western blot analysis that showed a marked increase in iNOS protein expression and enzyme activity concomitant with a modest reduction in the cNOS protein and activity. Although the mechanisms underlying the defective insulin secretory response of beta cells seen during the early stage of AP are complex, the present finding suggests that the expression of iNOS and a marked iNOS-derived NO production in the beta cells may play at least a contributory role in the impairment of beta-cell function.