GLUT2 expression is reduced in the pancreatic beta-cells of several diabetic animals. The transcriptional control of the gene in beta-cells involves at least two islet-specific DNA-binding proteins, GTIIa and PDX-1, which also transactivates the insulin, somatostatin and glucokinase genes. In this report, we assessed the DNA-binding activities of GTIIa and PDX-1 to their respective cis-elements of the GLUT2 promoter using nuclear extracts prepared from pancreatic islets of 12 week old db/db diabetic mice. We show that the decreased GLUT2 mRNA expression correlates with a decrease of the GTIIa DNA-binding activity, whereas the PDX-1 binding activity is increased. In these diabetic animals, insulin mRNA expression remains normal. The adjunction of dexamethasone to isolated pancreatic islets, a treatment previously shown to decrease PDX-1 expression in the insulin-secreting HIT-T15 cells, has no effect on the GTIIa and PDX-1 DNA-binding activities. These data suggest that the decreased activity of GTIIa, in contrast to PDX-1, may be a major initial step in the development of the beta-cell dysfunction in this model of diabetes.