The islet response to a high-fat diet, which induces insulin resistance, was investigated in Sprague-Dawley rats. It was found that the insulin response to glucose (15 or 25 mg/min, i.v.) was not different between rats given a high-fat diet and control rats after 2 weeks but was significantly reduced in rats fed high-fat diets after 4 (by 46+/-9%; p<0.001) and 8 weeks (by 68+/-12%; p<0.001). However, after 2 weeks of a high-fat diet, stimulated insulin secretion from isolated islets incubated for 60 min in 5.6, 8.3, and 11.1 mM glucose was impaired. When islets isolated from rats given a high-fat diet for 2 weeks were perifused, it was evident that the first-phase insulin secretion was impaired (seen during the first 6 min after increase of glucose from 3.3 to 8.3 mM). Insulin gene expression, examined by quantitative in situ hybridization, was impaired after 2 weeks of high-fat diet (52% decrease in mRNA-labeling; p<0.001). Islet hypertrophy was not evident in rats given high-fat diet, as determined by areas of either islet profiles in dark-field images or isolated islets. Islet innervation, as revealed by immunostaining for vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) and neuropeptide Y (NPY), was increased after 2, 4, and 8 weeks of high-fat diet. Thus induction of insulin resistance by high-fat diet in Sprague-Dawley rats results after 2 weeks in impaired glucose-stimulated insulin secretion in vitro, impaired insulin gene expression, and hyperinnervation of the islets without any sign of islet hypertrophy, whereas the in vivo insulin response to glucose, although normal after 2 weeks, is impaired after 4 weeks.