Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) is a promising candidate for the treatment of type II diabetes. However, the short in vivo half-life of GLP-1 has made peptide-based treatments challenging. Gene therapy aimed at achieving continuous GLP-1 expression presents one way to circumvent the rapid turnover of GLP-1. We have created a GLP-1 minigene that can direct the secretion of active GLP-1 (amino acids 7-37). Plasmid and adenoviral expression vectors encoding the 31-amino-acid peptide linked to leader sequences required for secretion of GLP-1 yielded sustained levels of active GLP-1 that were significantly greater than endogenous levels. Systemic administration of expression vectors to animals using two diabetic rodent models, db/db mice and Zucker Diabetic Fatty (ZDF) rats, yielded elevated GLP-1 levels that lowered both the fasting and random-fed hyperglycemia present in these animals. Because the insulinotropic actions of GLP-1 are glucose dependent, no evidence of hypoglycemia was observed. Improved glucose homeostasis was demonstrated by improvements in %HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin) and in glucose tolerance tests. GLP-1-treated animals had higher circulating insulin levels and increased insulin immunostaining of pancreatic sections. GLP-1-treated ZDF rats showed diminished food intake and, in the first few weeks following vector administration, a diminished weight gain. These results demonstrate the feasibility of gene therapy for type II diabetes using GLP-1 expression vectors.