The pancreatic beta-cell is a major site of islet amyloid polypeptide (IAPP) biosynthesis, and the peptide is coreleased with insulin. We have analyzed the expression of IAPP (mRNA and protein) in various cell types in normal and transformed murine islet cell cultures by Northern blot analyses and immunocytochemistry. IAPP is primarily coexpressed with insulin in the beta-cell of GH-promoted primary rat islet cell cultures. Additionally, a small population of non-beta-cells exhibited a prominent IAPP expression, and double staining experiments showed colocalization with glucagon or somatostatin in some of these cells. IAPP mRNA was confined to the beta-cell phenotype when analyzing the phenotypically stable in vivo tumor lines, MSL-G2-IN (insulinoma) and MSL-G-AN (glucagonoma), and the transgenic mouse islet cell lines, beta-Tc and alpha-Tc. However, IAPP and insulin expression were completely uncoupled in unstable heterogeneous clones such as NHI-6F. This clone is composed of primarily glucagon-producing cells in vitro, but insulin gene expression becomes dominant after passage in vivo. Interestingly, IAPP was hyperexpressed with glucagon under in vitro conditions in this clone. We conclude that the tissue specificity of expressions of IAPP and insulin are controlled differently, and that coexpression of IAPP with hormones different from insulin may be a marker for pluripotent transformed rat islet cell clones, which are able to activate insulin gene transcription during passage in vivo.