The purpose of the present study was to determine whether or not hyperglycemia in streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic rats after the intraportal transplantation of an insufficient number of isogenic islets can be ameliorated by nicotinamide treatment. WKA/Qdj (RT 1u) rats were used both as donors and recipients. Islets were isolated by the collagenase technique. A total of 350 islets was transplanted into the liver via the portal vein of the STZ-induced diabetic rats. Either nicotinamide (NA, 0.5 g/kg) or a vehicle (saline) was administered ip once a day for 60 days after transplantation. All the diabetic rats without islet transplantation remained hyperglycemic irrespective of the NA treatment. All the recipients (n = 12) bearing the islet grafts and treated with saline remained hyperglycemic (> 400 mg/dl) at 60 days after transplantation. In marked contrast, all the recipients (n = 18) with islet grafts and treated with NA became normoglycemic (< 200 mg/dl) at 16.2 +/- 7.1 days (mean +/- SD) after transplantation. Morphologically, islets were easily found in the liver of the recipients. Aldehyde-fuchsin stain revealed that the beta cells in the islet grafts of the NA treated recipients were well granulated, whereas those treated with saline were degranulated. The insulin content of the liver bearing the grafts treated with either NA or saline was 116.3 +/- 26.0 micrograms/liver (n = 4) or 5.7 +/- 2.2 micrograms (n = 4), respectively, while that of 350 donor islets was 29.4 +/- 2.5 micrograms (n = 5). The insulin content of the pancreas in the NA- or saline-treated recipients was 27.3 +/- 10.6 micrograms/pancreas (n = 4) or 2.7 +/- 1.2 micrograms (n = 4), respectively, while those of the pancreas from the diabetic rats without transplantation was 1.9 +/- 0.7 micrograms (n = 4) or 1.6 +/- 0.8 micrograms (n = 5), respectively. These findings clearly demonstrate that the hyperglycemia in the STZ-diabetic recipients after transplantation of an insufficient number of islets can be ameliorated while, in addition, the islet mass in the liver as well as the endogenous pancreas both increase in size with nicotinamide treatment.