The heart, like other organs, possesses an internal circadian clock. These clocks provide the selective advantage of anticipation, enabling the organ to prepare for a given stimulus, thereby optimizing the appropriate response. The heart in diabetes is associated with alterations in morphology, gene expression, metabolism and contractile performance. The present study investigated whether diabetes also alters the circadian clock in the heart. Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus was induced in rats by treatment with streptozotocin (STZ: 65 mg/kg), STZ increased humoral (glucose and non-esterified fatty acids) and heart gene expression (myosin heavy chain β, pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 and uncoupling protein 3) markers of diabetes. The circadian patterns of gene expression of seven components of the mammalian clock (bmal1, clock, cry1, cry2, per1, per2 and per3), as well as three clock output genes (dbp. hlf and tef), were compared in hearts isolated from control and STZ-induced diabetic rats. All components of the clock investigated possessed circadian rhythms of gene expression. In the hearts isolated from STZ-induced diabetic rats, the phases of these circadian rhythms were altered (approximately 3 h early) compared to those observed for control hearts. The clock in the heart has therefore lost normal synchronization with its environment during diabetes. Whether this loss of synchronization plays a role in the development of contractile dysfunction of the heart in diabetes remains to be determined. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd.