The response of rat quadriceps muscle fibers to chronic streptozotocin (STZ) diabetes was studied. Transverse sections of rectus femoris muscle from diabetic and weight-matched control rats were assayed for myofibrilar adenosine triphosphatase (ATPase) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide-tetrazolium reductase (NADH-TR). A quantitative analysis was carried out by an automatic interactive analysis system focused on the fiber type size and distribution. STZ-induced diabetes caused important effects in this muscle, with changes in the distribution of oxidative enzyme reactions, type I fiber hypertrophy, and type II fiber atrophy, which was greater in type IIB than in type IIA. It is concluded that hypoinsulinism produces morphological alterations in proximal skeletal muscle fibers that are similar to those of neurogenic myopathy. Thus the pathological changes in these mammalian muscle fibers could explain the clinical syndrome seen in diabetic patients called "diabetic symmetrical proximal motor neuropathy," perhaps the least understood of the major neuropathic complications of diabetes.