To investigate the role of glucagon in regulating hepatic glucose production in man, selective glucagon deficiency was produced in four normal men by infusing somatostatin (0.9 mg/h) and regular pork insulin (150-muU/kg per min) for 2 h. Exogenous glucose was infused to maintain euglycemia. Arterial plasma glucagon levels fell by greater than 50% whereas plasma insulin levels were maintained in the range of 10-14 muU/ml. In response to these hormonal changes, net splanchnic glucose production (NSGP) fell by 75% and remained suppressed for the duration of the study. In contrast, when somatostatin alone was administered to normal men, resulting in combined insulin and glucagon deficiency (euglycemia again maintained), NSGP fell markedly but only transiently, reaching its nadir at 15 min. Thereafter, NSGP rose progressively, reaching the basal rate at 105 min. These data indicate that the induction of selective glucagon deficiency in man (with basal insulin levels maintained) is associated with a marked and sustained fall in hepatic glucose production. We conclude, therefore, that basal glucagon plays an important role in the maintenance of basal hepatic glucose production in normal man.