Transgenic mice phenotypes generally depend on the background strains used in their creation. To examine the effects of genetic background on insulin signaling, we analyzed glucose homeostasis in four inbred strains of mice [C57BL/6 (B6), C57BLKS/6 (KLS), DBA/2 (DBA), and 129X1] and quantitated mRNA content of insulin receptor (IR) and its substrates in insulin-responsive tissues. At 2 months, the male B6 mouse is the least glucose-tolerant despite exhibiting similar insulin sensitivity and first-phase insulin secretion as the other strains. The 129X1 male mouse islet contains less insulin and exhibits a higher threshold for glucose-stimulated first-phase insulin secretion than the other strains. Female mice generally manifest better glucose tolerance than males, which is likely due to greater insulin sensitivity in liver and adipose tissue, a robust first-phase insulin secretion in B6 and KLS females, and improved insulin sensitivity in muscle in DBA and 129X1 females. At 6 months, although males exhibit improved first-phase insulin secretion, their physiology was relatively unchanged, whereas female B6 and KLS mice became less insulin sensitive. Gene expression of insulin signaling intermediates in insulin-responsive tissues was generally not strain dependent with the cell content of IR mRNA being highest. IR substrate (IRS)-1 and IRS-2 mRNA are ubiquitously expressed and IRS-3 and IRS-4 mRNA were detected in significant amounts in fat and brain tissues, respectively. These data indicate strain-, gender-, and age-dependent tissue sensitivity to insulin that is generally not associated with transcript content of IR or its substrates and should be taken into consideration during phenotypic characterization of transgenic mice.