The NSY (Nagoya-Shibata-Yasuda) mouse was established as an inbred strain of mouse with spontaneous development of diabetes mellitus, by selective breeding for glucose intolerance from outbred Jcl:ICR mice. NSY mice spontaneously develop diabetes mellitus in an age-dependent manner. The cumulative incidence of diabetes is 98% in males and 31% in females at 48 weeks of age. Neither severe obesity nor extreme hyperinsulinaemia is observed at any age in these mice. Glucose-stimulated insulin secretion was markedly impaired in NSY mice after 24 weeks of age. In contrast, fasting plasma insulin level was higher in male NSY mice than that in male C3H/He mice (545 +/- 73 vs 350 +/- 40 pmol/l, p < 0.05, at 36 weeks of age). Pancreatic insulin content was higher in male NSY mice than that in male C3H/He mice (76 +/- 8 vs 52 +/- 5 ng/mg wet weight, p < 0.05, at 36 weeks of age). Morphologically, no abnormal findings, such as hypertrophy or inflammatory changes in the pancreatic islets, were observed in NSY mice at any age. These data suggest that functional changes of insulin secretion in response to glucose from pancreatic beta cells may contribute to the development of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) in the NSY mouse. Although insulin sensitivity was not measured, fasting hyperinsulinaemia in NSY mice suggests that insulin resistance may also contribute to the pathogenesis of NIDDM. Since these findings are similar to the pathophysiologic features of human NIDDM patients, the NSY mouse is considered to be useful for investigating the pathogenesis and genetic predisposition to NIDDM.