Obesity and development of the metabolic syndrome is related to an increased parasympathetic tone and hyperinsulinemia. We have now studied the effects of age and metabolic status on glucose-induced insulin release stimulated by the neuropeptides vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP; 10 nM) and pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP; 10 nM), that are constituents of the parasympathetic nerves in the islets, and the cholinergic agonists acetylcholine (ACh; 10 microM) and carbachol (10 microM), in isolated islets from female obese ob/ob mice and lean mice. Both VIP and PACAP enhanced insulin secretion in islets from 4-week-old hyperglycemic ob/ob mice. VIP did not increase 11.1 mM glucose-induced insulin release in islets from 4-week-old lean normoglycemic mice and neither did PACAP in the absence of bicarbonate. The neuropeptides increased insulin release in islets from 9 to 10-month-old mice but VIP and PACAP had no effect in islets from very old mice. ACh had no effect in islets from 9 to 10-months and older ob/ob mice in the absence of bicarbonate. The combination of VIP and cholinergic agonists had an additive effect in islets from ob/ob mice, and PACAP combined with carbachol potentiated insulin release in islets from 4-week-old lean mice. VIP increased early phase insulin release in perifused islets from young mice. A higher concentration of theophylline was needed to potentiate glucose-induced insulin release in islets from young lean mice than in islets from old lean mice and ob/ob mice. The present results demonstrate age-related dynamics in the effects of neuropeptides affecting cAMP in pancreatic islets. We suggest that VIP and PACAP contribute to the developing metabolic syndrome in ob/ob mice by aggravating hyperinsulinemia.