There is a significant correlation between the occurrence of pancreatic islet amyloid and beta-cell failure in advanced type II diabetes mellitus. Islet amyloid is composed primarily of the fibrillar form of the pancreatic hormone, amylin. Using thioflavin-T fluorescence binding and radioprecipitation assays, we investigated whether or not a series of small tricyclic compounds, tetracycline or Congo Red could interfere with the conversion of synthetic human amylin into its insoluble amyloid form. Of the compounds investigated, incubation of human amylin with a 20-fold molar excess of either Congo Red or Acridine Orange resulted in significant inhibition in the rate of amyloid formation. With Congo Red, maximal inhibition effectively occurred at a 1:1 molar ratio or greater over human amylin, whereas inhibition by Acridine Orange was dose-dependent. A 20-fold molar excess of the compound tetracycline also decreased insoluble amyloid content after extended incubation periods of approx. 20 h. Amyloid fibril morphology in the presence of tetracycline, as measured by transmission electron microscopy, was characterized by short fragmented fibrils compared with the longer and denser appearance of fibrils formed by amylin alone. These findings show that polycyclic compounds can suppress the formation of amyloid by human amylin, providing support for an alternative approach to peptide-based strategies by which islet amyloid formation could be modulated.