The obese Zucker diabetic fatty male rat (ZDF/Gmi¿trade mark omitted¿-fa) has become a widely used animal model of NIDDM, in contrast to the obese ZDF females that rarely develop NIDDM. However, preliminary observations suggest that obese ZDF females may become diabetic on high-fat diets. Therefore, we studied the effect of dietary fat on development of NIDDM, dyslipidemia, and alterations in organ-specific serum panels in obese ZDF males and females. Results indicated different effects of dietary fat-content on development of diabetes in males and females. Males, even on low fat-content diets, developed diabetes but the process was accelerated as a function of dietary fat-content, whereas only the highest fat-content diet induced development of NIDDM in obese ZDF females. Additionally, triglyceride/apolipoprotein B ratios demonstrated gender-specific differences in the nature of circulating lipoprotein particles independent of diabetic state with values for females approximately twice those of males indicating more highly triglyceride-enriched lipoprotein particles in females. We conclude that the obese ZDF female rat has the potential to become an important animal model of NIDDM especially in women where few models currently exist.