1. Groups of lean and corpulent LA/N-cp rats were fed isoenergetic diets containing, 54% carbohydrate as maize starch (MS) or sucrose (SU), 20% protein, 16% mixed fats, plus other essential nutrients and fiber from 1.5-9 months of age. Final body weights of corpulent rats were 2-3 times those of their lean littermates, and were greater with SU than MS diet in both phenotypes. 2. Interscapular brown adipose tissue (IBAT) mass was greater in corpulent than lean and was greater with SU than MS diet in lean but not corpulent rats. IBAT cell diameters and adipocyte volumes were generally similar in both phenotypes, and were not markedly affected by dietary carbohydrate type. 3. Brown adipocyte locularity profiles were qualitatively similar in both phenotypes, and were morphologically indicative of thermogenic activity in both phenotypes. Locule profiles of corpulent animals contained a greater proportion of thermogenically less active types IV and V brown adipocytes than similarly fed lean animals, however, and locule distribution profiles were not influenced by diet. 4. Serum T3 concentrations were similar in both phenotypes, were greater in SU than MS lean rats and were not influenced by diet in the corpulent phenotype. In contrast, serum thyroxine concentrations and percent thyroxine uptake were not influenced by diet or phenotype. 5. These results are consistent with a partial impairment in BAT-mediated thermogenic activity in the corpulent phenotype and suggest that obesity in this strain may be due to factors other than biochemically defective brown adipose tissue thermogenesis.