Clusterin is a heterodimeric glycoprotein which has been shown to play important roles in programmed cell death and/or in tissue reorganization not only during embryonic development but also in damaged tissues. Recently, we reported the transient induction of clusterin in pancreatic endocrine cells during early developmental stages of islet formation. In the present study, we have investigated the expression of clusterin in pancreatic tissue of streptozotocin-treated rats which were undergoing extensive islet tissue reorganization due to degeneration of insulin beta cells. Clusterin was found in endocrine cells identified as glucagon-secreting alpha cells at the periphery of the islet. Using immunoelectron microscopy, clusterin-positive cells showed the typical ultrastructural features of pancreatic alpha cells. In addition, colocalization of clusterin and glucagon in the same secretory granules was shown by double immunogold labeling. These results imply that clusterin is a secretory molecule having endocrine and/or paracrine actions in parallel with glucagon. Further, we noted that clusterin expression was increased in pancreatic alpha cells during the process of beta cell death upon streptozotocin injection. The increase was significant as early as 1-3 h after streptozotocin treatment prior to any morphological alteration of islet beta cell and any manifestation of hyperglycemia. The expression of clusterin was steady-stately up-regulated during the process of islet reorganization caused by streptozotocin-induced cytotoxic injury. Therefore, we suggest that clusterin might be considered as a molecule induced by both embryonic development and drug-induced reorganization of the endocrine pancreas. Since clusterin expression is up-regulated in alpha cells, but not in beta cells undergoing degeneration, it may play a protective role against the cytotoxic insult.