The first aim of this study was to determine whether the plasma glucose level can regulate hepatic glucose balance in vivo independent of its effects on insulin and glucagon secretion. To accomplish this, glucose was infused into conscious dogs whose basal insulin and glucagon secretion had been replaced by exogenous intraportal insulin and glucagon infusion after somatostatin inhibition of endogenous pancreatic hormone release. The acute induction of hyperglycemia (mean increment of 121 mg/dl) in the presence of basal levels of insulin (7+/-1 muU/ml) and glucagon (76+/-3 pg/ml) resulted in a 56% decrease in net hepatic glucose production but did not cause net hepatic glucose uptake. The second aim of the study was to determine whether a decrease in the plasma glucagon level would modify the effect of glucose on the liver. The above protocol was repeated with the exception that glucagon was withdrawn (83% decrease in plasma glucagon) coincident with the induction of hyperglycemia. Under this circumstance, with the insulin level basal (7+/-1 muU/ml) and the glucagon levels reduced (16+/-2 pg/ml), hyperglycemia (mean increment of 130 mg/dl) promoted marked net hepatic glucose uptake (1.5+/-0.2 mg/kg per min) and glycogen deposition. In conclusion, (a) physiological increments in the plasma glucose concentration, independent of their effects on insulin and glucagon secretion, can significantly reduce net hepatic glucose production in vivo but at levels as high as 230 mg/dl cannot induce net hepatic glucose storage and (b) in the presence of basal insulin the ability of hyperglycemia to stimulate net hepatic glucose storage is influenced by the plasma glucagon concentration.