The characteristic features of diabetic cardiomyopathy have been reported to be increased collagen formation associated with impairment of ventricular performance, based on experimental models of diabetes. The present study was therefore designed to clarify collagen gene expression in hearts obtained from female spontaneously diabetic BioBreeding Worcester Tokyo (BB/W@Tky) rats. Cardiac hypertrophy was observed as early as 14 weeks in diabetic BB/W@Tky rats, i.e. 4 weeks after the onset of diabetes. Left ventricular gene expression of collagen alpha 1 (I) was decreased to 10.6% of the control level. In 24-week-old diabetic rats, which had more marked cardiac hypertrophy, the level of alpha 1 Type I collagen mRNA was further decreased to 5.7% of the control level, whereas collagen alpha 1 (IV) mRNA demonstrated a 3-fold increase. As a result, a ratio of collagen alpha 1 (IV) to actin mRNA was positively correlated with plasma glucose concentration. These results suggest that hyperglycemia may alter the gene expression of extracellular matrix proteins, resulting in the morphological and functional changes seen in diabetic cardiomyopathy.