Infections with Coxsackie viruses (especially Coxsackie B4) are thought to be involved in the pathogenesis of diabetes. Many interdependent variables determine the outcome of an infection with a Coxsackie virus, one of them being the tropism of the virus for a specific tissue. The extent to which Beta cell tropic variants of Coxsackie B4 virus occur naturally was assessed. Human isolates of this virus were tested in an in vitro system in which elevated insulin release from infected islets incubated at a non-stimulatory (2 mmol/l) glucose concentration appears to be related to viral attack. Using this technique, 8/24 isolates tested, impaired secretory function in mouse islets. Some strains of Coxsackie B4 virus, therefore, will directly infect mouse islets in vitro leading to changes in islet cell function. In conclusion, these findings confirm that variants of Coxsackie B4 virus with the potential to damage Beta cells occur quite frequently in the natural population. In certain circumstances the damage they inflict on Beta cells may cause destruction of these cells, or precipitate overt diabetes.