Beta cells were isolated from strains of mice that were susceptible and resistant to encephalomyocarditis (EMC) viral-induced diabetes mellitus. Beta cells from susceptible mice that were infected in vivo with EMC virus showed higher viral titers, more severe degranulation, and lower concentrations of immunoreactive insulin than beta cells from resistant mice. Immunofluorescence and infectious center assays revealed that pancreas from susceptible mice contained at least 10 times more infected cells than pancreas from resistant mice. Beta cell cultures prepared from susceptible mice and infected in vitro also showed higher viral titers and more severe cytopathologic changes than beta cell cultures from resistant mice. In contrast to beta cell cultures, virus replicated equally well in primary embryo and kidney cell cultures from susceptible and resistant strains of mice. It is concluded that the development of EMC virus-induced diabetes is related to genetically determined host differences in the capacity of the virus to infect beta cells.