We describe the durable correction of streptozotocin-induced murine diabetes by in vivo implantation of primary mouse hepatocytes electroporated ex vivo with a human proinsulin cDNA plasmid construct controlled by glucose and zinc regulatory elements. Transfected hepatocytes increased insulin transgene transcription and secretion within 10-20 min of exposure to 25 mM glucose or 60 muM zinc. Insulin release did not occur from secretory granules. Electroporated Rosa26 hepatocytes ( approximately 8 x 10(5) viable cells) were implanted in C57BL/6J diabetic mice in one of three sites: unresected liver, regenerating liver or mesentery. Control diabetic mice were implanted with untransfected hepatocytes. At 30 days after implantation, 8/15 control mice were alive, while 19/19 treated mice were alive. The ratio of body weight on day 30/nadir body weight was significantly higher for all treated groups compared with controls. All eight surviving control mice were hyperglycemic 30 days post-implantation, while 16/19 treated diabetic mice remained normoglycemic. Treated mice had lower mean glucose values (P=0.001) without fasting hypoglycemia and better glucose tolerance (P=0.0003) than untreated controls. All (6/6) diabetic mice implanted in regenerating liver and 71% (5/7) implanted in unresected liver were alive 77 days after implantation. Engrafted hepatocytes were identified, mainly around central veins, by staining for beta-galactosidase activity and with anti-human insulin antibody.