Glucagon-like peptide-1-(7-36)-amide (GLP-1) is a potent blood glucose-lowering hormone now under investigation for use as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of type 2 (adult onset) diabetes mellitus. GLP-1 binds with high affinity to G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) located on pancreatic β-cells, and it exerts insulinotropic actions that include the stimulation of insulin gene transcription, insulin biosynthesis, and insulin secretion. The beneficial therapeutic action of GLP-1 also includes its ability to act as a growth factor, stimulating formation of new pancreatic islets (neogenesis) while slowing β-cell death (apoptosis). GLP- 1 belongs to a large family of structurally-related hormones and neuropeptides that include glucagon, secretin, GIP, PACAP, and VIP. Biosynthesis of GLP-1 occurs in the enteroendocrine L-cells of the distal intestine, and the release of GLP-1 into the systemic circulation accompanies ingestion of a meal. Although GLP-1 is inactivated rapidly by dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DDP-IV), synthetic analogs of GLP-1 exist, and efforts have been directed at engineering these peptides so that they are resistant to enzymatic hydrolysis. Additional modifications of GLP-1 incorporate fatty acylation and drug affinity complex (DAC) technology to improve serum albumin binding, thereby slowing renal clearance of the peptides. NN2211, LY315902, LY307161, and CJC-1131 are GLP-1 synthetic analogs that reproduce many of the biological actions of GLP-1, but with a prolonged duration of action. AC2993 (Exendin-4) is a naturally occurring peptide isolated from the lizard Heloderma, and it acts as a high affinity agonist at the GLP-1 receptor. This review summarizes structural features and signal transduction properties of GLP-1 and its cognate β-cell GPCR. The usefulness of synthetic GLP-1 analogs as blood glucose-lowering agents is discussed, and the applicability of GLP-1 as a therapeutic agent for treatment of type 2 diabetes is highlighted.