Chronic exposure of HIT-T15 beta cells to elevated glucose concentrations leads to decreased insulin gene transcription. The reduction in expression is accompanied by diminished binding of a glucose-sensitive transcription factor (termed GSTF) that interacts with two (A+T)-rich elements within the 5' flanking control region of the insulin gene. In this study we examined whether GSTF corresponds to the recently cloned insulin gene transcription factor STF-1, a homeodomain protein whose expression is restricted to the nucleus of endodermal cells of the duodenum and pancreas. We found that an affinity-purified antibody recognizing STF-1 supershifted the GSTF activator complex formed from HIT-T15 extracts. In addition, we demonstrated a reduction in STF-1 mRNA and protein levels that closely correlated with the change in GSTF binding in HIT-T15 cells chronically cultured under supraphysiologic glucose concentrations. The reduction in STF-1 expression in these cells could be accounted for by a change in the rate of STF-1 gene transcription, suggesting a posttranscriptional control mechanism. In support of this hypothesis, no STF-1 mRNA accumulated in HIT-T15 cells passaged in 11.1 mM glucose. The only RNA species detected was a 6.4-kb STF-1 RNA species that hybridized with 5' and 3' STF-1-specific cDNA probes. We suggest that the 6.4-kb RNA represents an STF-1 mRNA precursor and that splicing of this RNA is defective in these cells. Overall, this study suggests that reduced expression of a key transcriptional regulatory factor, STF-1, contributes to the decrease in insulin gene transcription in HIT-T15 cells chronically cultured in supraphysiologic glucose concentration.