Facilitative glucose transporter (GLUTs 1, 2, 4, and 5) messenger RNAs (mRNAs) are differentially distributed in the rat nephron: GLUT1 is widely expressed, GLUT4 is selectively concentrated in thick ascending limbs, and GLUT2 and 5 are exclusively localized in proximal tubules, consistent with differential roles for these transporters in renal glucose handling. In the present study, quantitative in situ hybridization was used to evaluate changes in these mRNA levels during acute (2 and 7 days) and chronic (30, 90, and 180 days) streptozotocin-induced diabetes mellitus (STZ-DM). Medullary GLUT1 and GLUT4 mRNA levels were significantly increased during the acute phase but returned to normal after I week. Cortical GLUT1 mRNA levels, however, were decreased significantly from 7 days through 6 months of STZ- DM. Cortical GLUT2 mRNA was slightly increased acutely and increased 5-fold in chronic STZ-DM, with the largest increase foeally concentrated in the convoluted portion of the proximal tubule. Proximal tubule GLUT5 mRNA levels also were increased significantly during chronic STZ-DM. In summary, medullary GLUT1 and GLUT4 mRNA levels are acutely increased in STZ-DM, paralleling the increased renal epithelial metabolic activity accompanying early diabetes. Proximal tubular GLUT2 and 5 mRNA levels were increased in chronic STZ-DM, possibly adapting to the increased need for glucose transport out of these epithelial cells, whereas the concomitant decrease in cortical GLUT1 expression may reflect the decreased requirement for basolateral import of glucose into these same cells. Thus, renal GLUTs demonstrate complex, nephron segment-specific and duration-dependent responses to the effects of STZ-DM.