RINm5F insulinoma cells show a defective physiological insulin secretory response to glucose stimulation. The short chain carbonic acid sodium butyrate induced a growth arrest during a 72-h tissue culture period. In contrast to control RINm5F cells, 2 mm glucose increased insulin secretion by more than 70% in these sodium butyrate-treated cells (1 mm) without any further increase of the secretory rate between 2 and 20 mm glucose. This effect of sodium butyrate on insulin secretion was assessed in comparison with its effect on gene expression of the GLUT1 and GLUT2 glucose transporter, hexokinase type I and type II, glucokinase and insulin. Sodium butyrate at a 1 mm concentration decreased GLUT1 gene expression by nearly 50%, but did not induce gene expression of the low-affinity GLUT2 glucose transporter above the detection limit. Furthermore, sodium butyrate increased glucokinase gene expression by more than 50% and hexokinase type II gene expression by more than 100%, while insulin gene expression was increased only by 24%. Hexokinase type II enzyme activity was increased by more than 100% without a concomitant significant change of the glucokinase enzyme activity. Sodium butyrate (2 mm) caused effects comparable with those of 1 mm sodium butyrate. Thus the improved insulin secretory responsiveness of RINm5F insulinoma cells after sodium butyrate treatment at low non-physiological millimolar glucose concentrations can be interpreted as a result of an increased hexokinase-mediated metabolic flux rate through the glycolytic chain.