Immunohistochemical and morphometrical studies were performed to elucidate the specificity of atherosclerosis in the descending branch (the segments 5 and 6) of the left coronary artery associated with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) in the anterior wall of the heart and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). The NIDDM without AMI group showed diffuse intimal thickening with smooth muscle cells, combined with much more intense immunostaining of tenascin than the non diabetic groups. The AMI without NIDDM group showed atheromatous thickening with decreased smooth muscle cells, a large number of macrophage and TUNEL-positive cells compared with the groups without AMI. However, the AMI with NIDDM group revealed atherosclerotic lesion with decreased smooth muscle cells, increased macrophages and TUNEL positive cells associated with the increased localization of tenascin and TGF-beta1 compared with the control. These findings suggest that the specificity of coronary atherosclerosis in diabetic patients may be the extensive atherosclerotic changes associated with increased tenascin. In AMI with NIDDM, increased TGF beta1 may induce apoptosis in the atheroma and coronary dysfunction, contributing to the development of acute myocardial infarction.