Hypoglycemia-induced counterregulatory failure is a dangerous complication of insulin use in diabetes mellitus. Controlled hypoglycemia studies in gene knockout models, which require the use of mice, would aid in identifying causes of defective counterregulation. Because stress can influence counterregulatory hormones and glucose homeostasis, we developed glucose clamps with remote blood sampling in conscious, unrestrained mice. Male C57BL/6 mice implanted with indwelling carotid artery and jugular vein catheters were subjected to 2 h of hyperinsulinemic glucose clamps 24 h apart, with a 6-h fast before each clamp. On day 1, blood glucose was maintained (euglycemia, 178 +/- 4 mg/dl) or decreased to 62 +/- 1 mg/dl (hypoglycemia) by insulin (20 mU x kg(-1) x min(-1)) and variable glucose infusion. Donor blood was continuously infused to replace blood sample volume. Baseline plasma epinephrine (32 +/- 8 pg/ml), corticosterone (16.1 +/- 1.8 microg/dl), and glucagon (35 +/- 3 pg/ml) were unchanged during euglycemia but increased significantly during hypoglycemia, with a glycemic threshold of approximately 80 mg/dl. On day 2, all mice underwent a hypoglycemic clamp (blood glucose, 64 +/- 1 mg/dl). Compared with mice that were euglycemic on day 1, previously hypoglycemic mice had significantly higher glucose requirements and significantly lower plasma glucagon and corticosterone (n = 6/group) on day 2. Epinephrine tended to decrease, although not significantly, in repeatedly hypoglycemic mice. Pre- and post-clamp insulin levels were similar between groups. We conclude that counterregulatory responses to acute and repeated hypoglycemia in unrestrained, chronically cannulated mice reproduce aspects of counterregulation in humans, and that repeated hypoglycemia in mice is a useful model of counterregulatory failure.