The inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor (InsP3R) is an intracellular Ca2+ channel that plays a role in the regulation of insulin secretion. In rat isolated pancreatic islets the expression of types I, II and III InsP3R mRNA was identified by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction and confirmed by cDNA cloning and sequencing. The islet ratios of types I, II and III InsP3R mRNA to beta-actin mRNA were 0.08 +/- 0.02, 0.08 +/- 0.03 and 0.25 +/- 0.04 respectively. Types I, II and III InsP3R mRNA were also expressed in rat (RINm5F) and mouse (betaHC9) pancreatic beta-cell lines, and rat cerebellum. Type III InsP3R mRNA was quantitatively the most abundant form in rat islets and RINm5F cells. In betaHC9 cells, types II and III InsP3R mRNA were expressed at similar levels, and in much greater abundance than type I mRNA. Type III was the least abundant InsP3R mRNA in cerebellum. Culture of betaHC9 cells for 5 days at 2.8 and 25 mM glucose, or RINm5F cells for 7 days at 5.5 and 20 mM glucose, resulted in significantly enhanced expression of type III, but not types I and II, InsP3R mRNA in the cells at the higher glucose concentrations. During short-term (0.5-2 h) incubations, betaHC9 cell type III InsP3R mRNA levels increased in response to glucose in a time- and concentration-dependent manner. Actinomycin D inhibited the glucose response. Alpha-ketoisocaproic acid also stimulated betaHC9 cell type III InsP3R mRNA expression in a concentration-dependent manner, whereas 2-deoxyglucose and 3-O-methylglucose were without effect. The different levels of expression of mRNA for three InsP3R isoforms in islets and insulinoma cells, and the influence of glucose and alpha-ketoisocaproic acid on the expression of type III mRNA, suggests that nutrient metabolism plays a role in the regulation of this gene and that the function of InsP3R subtypes may be unique with each playing a distinct role in beta-cell signal transduction and insulin secretion.