The BioBreeding Rat is a recently discovered model of spontaneous diabetes mellitus. Studies to date have revealed the following characteristics of the syndrome: genetic predisposition, equal frequency and severity among males and females, absence of obesity, life sustaining requirement for insulin therapy, lymphocytic insulitis with destruction of pancreatic beta-cells, lymphocytic thyroiditis and the presence of autoantibodies to smooth muscle, thyroid colloid and other cellular antigens. Animals raised in a germ-free environment evidence diabetes with equal frequency and severity. Support for a cell-mediated autoimmune pathogenesis of the diabetic syndrome is derived from the following experiments: administration of antiserum to rat lymphocytes prevents diabetes in susceptible animals and normalizes plasma glucose levels in 36% of diabetic rats; neonatal thymectomy almost completely prevents the occurrence of diabetes. Although the BB rat may not be an appropriate model for studying the vascular complications of diabetes, peripheral nerve functional and ultrastructural defects have been reported and renal glomerular immuneglobulin deposits have been observed in long-term diabetic animals.