The long-term regulation of hepatic mitochondrial carnitine palmitoyltransferase (CPT) was studied in control, insulin-treated, and untreated spontaneously diabetic BB Wistar rats. The activity of CPT was elevated approximately twofold in the untreated diabetic rats. This corresponded to an approximately equivalent elevation in the immunoreactive CPT activity. mRNA (CPT) was assayed by reticulocyte lysate translation and by dot blot to a CPT oligonucleotide probe. The level of mRNA(CPT) was approximately proportional to the observed CPT activity. A cDNA probe to CPT was developed, and transcriptional activity for CPT was assessed in isolated hepatic nuclei. Again, transcription of CPT mRNA was approximately proportional to the observed activity. We therefore conclude that at least part of the long-term regulation of hepatic CPT in spontaneously diabetic BB Wistar rats is the product of increased de novo synthesis of CPT protein brought about by regulation at the transcriptional level. Additional control of the amount of CPT may be via the regulation of RNA processing and turnover and enzyme insertion into the mitochondrial membrane.