According to the glucose toxicity hypothesis, hyperglycemia contributes to defective beta-cell function in type 2, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. This concept is supported by substantial data in rodent models of diabetes. However, the ability of glucose to stimulate the accumulation of insulin mRNA, a critical feature of normal beta-cell physiology, has not been investigated in in vivo models of chronic hyperglycemia. The aim of this study was to determine whether glucose-induced insulin mRNA accumulation is impaired in the neonatal streptozotocin-treated rat (n0-STZ rat), a model of non-obese, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Islets of Langerhans isolated from n0-STZ and control rats were cultured for 24 h in the presence of 2.8 or 16.7 mmol/L glucose, and insulin mRNA levels were measured by Northern analysis. Insulin mRNA levels were increased more than twofold by glucose in control islets. In contrast, no significant effect of glucose was found on insulin mRNA levels in n0-STZ islets. We conclude that insulin gene regulation by glucose is impaired in n0-STZ rat islets.