Ascorbic acid is necessary for optimal insulin secretion from pancreatic islets. We evaluated ascorbate recycling and whether it is impaired by increased glucose metabolism in the rat beta-cell line INS-1. INS-1 cells, engineered with the potential for overexpression of glucokinase under the control of a tetracycline-inducible gene expression system, took up and reduced dehydroascorbic acid to ascorbate in a concentration-dependent manner that was optimal in the presence of physiologic D-glucose concentrations. Ascorbate uptake did not affect intracellular GSH concentrations. Whereas depletion of GSH in culture to levels about 25% of normal also did not affect the ability of the cells to reduce dehydroascorbic acid, more severe acute GSH depletion to less than 10% of normal levels did impair dehydroascorbic acid reduction. Culture of inducible cells in 11.8 mM D-glucose and doxycycline for 48 h enhanced glucokinase activity, increased glucose utilization, abolished D-glucose-dependent insulin secretion, and increased generation of reactive oxygen species. The latter may have contributed to subsequent decreases in the ability of the cells both to maintain intracellular ascorbate and to recycle it from dehydroascorbic acid. Cultured beta cells have a high capacity to recycle ascorbate, but this is sensitive to oxidant stress generated by increased glucose metabolism due to culture in high glucose concentrations and increased glucokinase expression. Impaired ascorbate recycling as a result of increased glucose metabolism may have implications for the role of ascorbate in insulin secretion in diabetes mellitus and may partially explain glucose toxicity in beta cells.