Despite accumulating evidence showing that TNF-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL) plays a role in vascular biology and that its decoy receptor osteoprotegerin (OPG) is expressed in the vessel wall, modulation of these TNF and TNF-R family members in the early phases of diabetes mellitus has not been investigated. The expression of TRAIL and of OPG was examined both at the mRNA and protein levels in control and streptozotocin (SZT)-induced diabetic rats at early time points after the induction of diabetes mellitus. No differences in the steady-state mRNA levels of TRAIL were noticed by quantitative RT-PCR among the two groups of animals. On the other hand, diabetic rats showed a rapid and significant increase of the steady-state mRNA levels of OPG in the aortic wall of diabetic animals with respect to vehicle-treated (control) animals. These findings were confirmed at the protein level by analysing the amount of TRAIL and OPG proteins in aortic lysates by either Western blot or immunohistochemistry. Thus, an abnormal elevation of the OPG/TRAIL ratio in the vessel wall characterizes the early onset of diabetes mellitus and might represent a molecular mechanism involved in the vascular dysfunction characterizing diabetes mellitus.