Elevated glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is a frequent finding in patients with early insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). The mechanisms responsible for this glomerular hyperfiltration in IDDM are unclear. Rats made diabetic with alloxan or streptozotocin, and treated daily with supplemental insulin, have moderate hyperglycemia and elevated GFR, and thus have been used to study mechanisms of glomerular hyperfiltration in diabetes. Renal micropuncture techniques have shown that single-nephron GFR (SNGFR) is elevated in moderately hyperglycemic diabetic rats. In some cases, this is because of elevated glomerular capillary pressure (Pgc), but in other cases, Pgc is normal despite elevated SNGFR. Several potential mediators of increased SNGFR have been examined, including hyperglycemia, increased glomerular prostaglandin production, and decreased sensitivity of the tubuloglomerular feedback mechanism. Renal failure is a common complication of human IDDM. Diabetic rats with long-term moderate hyperglycemia have been used to study the mechanisms by which glomerular injury develops in diabetes mellitus. It has been postulated that glomerular hyperfiltration or some determinant of elevated GFR in early diabetes may ultimately cause glomerular damage, leading to a progressive loss of renal function (diabetic nephropathy). Diabetic rats with long-term moderate hyperglycemia, however, do not develop characteristic glomerular lesions of human diabetic nephropathy and, in fact, develop only minimal glomerular injury even after 1 year of diabetes. Thus, although the diabetic rat with moderate hyperglycemia may be useful to study the mechanisms of glomerular hyperfiltration in early diabetes, it may not be an appropriate model of renal failure in IDDM.