Cell loss and regeneration were investigated and compared in the retinal microvasculature of age- and sex-matched normal and streptozotocin diabetic rats. Selective pericyte loss in the diabetic rat was characterized by changes in the pericyte to endothelial cell ratio in retinal capillaries isolated for microscopy by the trypsin digest technique. A comparison of 3- and 9-month-old normal rats showed no significant change in the pericyte to endothelial cell ratio (1:2.7). In diabetic animals the ratio was reduced to 1:4.03, which was statistically significant (P less than .001). Premitotic retinal vascular cells in normal and diabetic rats were labelled with tritiated thymidine and the labelling indices calculated from cell counts of trypsin digest preparations. Methyl H3 thymidine was infused continuously over an eight-day period using osmotic mini pumps. The labelling index of endothelial cells (0.33%) in normal rats increased to 0.91% in diabetic animals (P less than .05). The labelling index of pericyte cells in normal animals (0.16%) did not increase significantly (P greater than .05) in diabetic animals (0.19%). A special stain was used to exclude labelled polymorphonuclear leukocytes from the cell counts.