Genetic background is important in determining susceptibility to metabolic abnormalities such as insulin resistance and beta-cell dysfunction. Islet amyloid is associated with reduced beta-cell mass and function and develops in the majority of our C57BL/6J x DBA/2J (F(1)) male human islet amyloid polypeptide (hIAPP) transgenic mice after 1 yr of increased fat feeding. To determine the relative contribution of each parental strain, C57BL/6J (BL6) and DBA/2J (DBA2), to islet amyloid formation, we studied male hIAPP mice on each background strain (BL6, n = 13; and DBA2 n = 11) and C57BL/6J x DBA/2J F(1) mice (n = 17) on a 9% (wt/wt) fat diet for 1 yr. At the end of 12 mo, islet amyloid deposition was quantified from thioflavin S-stained pancreas sections. The majority of mice in all groups developed islet amyloid (BL6: 91%, F(1): 76%, DBA2: 100%). However, the prevalence (%amyloid-positive islets; BL6: 14 +/- 3%, F(1): 44 +/- 8%, DBA2: 49 +/- 9%, P < 0.05) and severity (%islet area occupied by amyloid; BL6: 0.03 +/- 0.01%, F(1): 9.2 +/- 2.9%, DBA2: 5.7 +/- 2.3%, p < or = 0.01) were significantly lower in BL6 than F(1) and DBA2 mice. Increased islet amyloid severity was negatively correlated with insulin-positive area per islet, in F(1) (r(2) = 0.75, P < 0.001) and DBA2 (r(2) = 0.87, P < 0.001) mice but not BL6 mice (r(2) = 0.07). In summary, the extent of islet amyloid formation in hIAPP transgenic mice is determined by background strain, with mice expressing DBA/2J genes (F(1) and DBA2 mice) being more susceptible to amyloid deposition that replaces beta-cell mass. These findings underscore the importance of genetic and environmental factors in studying metabolic disease.