In insulin-dependent diabetics, insulin requirements increase significantly after 0600 h, resulting in prebreakfast hyperglycemia with either conventional insulin therapy or constant insulin infusions with insulin infusion devices. In order to clarify the role of the pituitary-adrenocortical axis and further examine the mechanisms of the phenomenon of nocturnal variability in insulin requirements, we studied five IDDs using a closed-loop insulin infusion device (Biostator, GCIIS). The subjects were given saline (SAL) or dexamethasone (DEX) i.v. from 1800 to 0900 h on successive nights. From 2400-0300 to 0600-0900 h, mean insulin infusion rates required to maintain blood glucose values between 109 and 120 mg/dl increased by 0.21 ± 0.05 mU/kg/min during the SAL infusion, and 0.16 ± 0.04 mU/kg/min during the DEX infusion, when plasma cortisols were suppressed ≤ 2 μg/dl. Mean free insulin concentrations did not increase and remained constant throughout both study nights in spite of the significantly higher 0600-0900-h insulin infusion rates. Growth hormone, glucagon, epinephrine, and norepinephrine concentrations showed normal nocturnal and early morning patterns during both study nights. We conclude that the nocturnal variability in insulin requirements persists despite suppression of the pituitary-adrenocortical axis, and that increased free insulin clearance or degradation may contribute to the 'dawn phenomenon' of rising prebreakfast glucose despite constant insulin infusion.