The cells within the intact islet of Langerhans function as a metabolic syncytium, secreting insulin in a coordinated and oscillatory manner in response to external fuel. With increased glucose, the oscillatory amplitude is enhanced, leading to the hypothesis that cells within the islet are secreting with greater synchronization. Consequently, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM; type 2 diabetes)-induced irregularities in insulin secretion oscillations may be attributed to decreased intercellular coordination. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether the degree of metabolic coordination within the intact islet was enhanced by increased glucose and compromised by NIDDM. Experiments were performed with isolated islets from normal and diabetic Psammomys obesus. Using confocal microscopy and the mitochondrial potentiometric dye rhodamine 123, we measured mitochondrial membrane potential oscillations in individual cells within intact islets. When mitochondrial membrane potential was averaged from all the cells in a single islet, the resultant waveform demonstrated clear sinusoidal oscillations. Cells within islets were heterogeneous in terms of cellular synchronicity (similarity in phase and period), sinusoidal regularity, and frequency of oscillation. Cells within normal islets oscillated with greater synchronicity compared with cells within diabetic islets. The range of oscillatory frequencies was unchanged by glucose or diabetes. Cells within diabetic (but not normal) islets increased oscillatory regularity in response to glucose. These data support the hypothesis that glucose enhances metabolic coupling in normal islets and that the dampening of oscillatory insulin secretion in NIDDM may result from disrupted metabolic coupling.