Weaning onto chow diets causes the highest incidence of diabetes in the BB rat. Changes in gut development and absorption of nutrients in the diabetes prone rat and the subsequent effect on pancreatic function may play a role in the ultimate development of the disease. BB diabetes prone (dp) and BB normal (n) dams were fed chow diets. Pups were killed at various ages ranging from 7 to 30 days. BBdp rats had higher small intestine and colon weights expressed per body weight at all ages (p < 0.0001). RNA content (mg/g) in the jejunum, ileum and colon was higher in the BBdp rats beginning at the critical period at 21 days and maintained at 24 days and 30 days (p < 0.0001). Proglucagon message decreased with age in both BBdp and BBn animals (p < 0.0001). Levels of proglucagon mRNA were higher in BBdp compared to BBn animals only in the ileum at 10 days (p < 0.01). Adjusting for total ileal and colonic RNA content resulted in BBdp animals having higher total colonic proglucagon mRNA at 21, 24 and 30 days (p < 0.0001). Plasma GLP-1(7-36) amide was more than doubled in BBdp compared to BBn animals (p < 0.0005) at 30 days. Expressing sodium-dependent D-glucose co-transporter (SGLT-1), GLUT2 and GLUT5 mRNA per total jejunal RNA shows increased transporter mRNA in BBdp compared to BBn rats at weaning (21 days) (p < 0.05). Radical differences exist between BBdp and BBn animals at 'critical periods' in both proglucagon and glucose transporter gene expression. These differences may help explain altered growth and diseases incidence between these two strains.