Streptozotocin (STZ) diabetes was induced in spontaneously hypertensive (SHR) and normotensive Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats. Body weight, blood pressure, renal function, glycaemic control and proteinuria were assessed monthly for 32 weeks. At 32 weeks, the animals were killed and glomerular basement membrane (GBM) thickness and fractional mesangial volume were measured. There was no significant difference in renal function between diabetic SHR and diabetic WKY. Diabetic SHR showed an earlier and larger rise in total proteinuria and urinary albumin excretion than diabetic WKY. Urinary albumin excretion was increased more than tenfold in diabetic SHR compared to diabetic WKY after 32 weeks of diabetes. GBM thickness was significantly increased in diabetic SHR compared with diabetic WKY. Both diabetic WKY and diabetic SHR showed mesangial expansion when compared to their nondiabetic counterparts. On the other hand, both hypertensive models showed increased glomerular volume, which was not influenced by the presence of diabetes. The diabetic SHR model has features of accelerated nephropathy, as evidenced by increased albuminuria and GBM thickness. This suggests that pre-existing hypertension may play an important role in the progression of diabetic renal disease.