Diabetes is independently associated with a specific cardiomyopathy, characterized by impaired cardiac muscle relaxation and force development. Using synchrotron radiation small-angle x-ray scattering, this study investigated in the in situ heart and in real-time whether changes in cross-bridge disposition and myosin interfilament spacing underlie the early development of diabetic cardiomyopathy. Experiments were conducted using anesthetized Sprague-Dawley rats 3 weeks after treatment with either vehicle (control) or streptozotocin (diabetic). Diffraction patterns were recorded during baseline and dobutamine infusions simultaneous with ventricular pressure-volumetry. From these diffraction patterns myosin mass transfer to actin filaments was assessed as the change in intensity ratio (I(1,0)/I(1,1)). In diabetic hearts cross-bridge disposition was most notably abnormal in the diastolic phase (p <0.05) and to a lesser extent the systolic phase (p <0.05). In diabetic rats only, there was a transmural gradient of contractile depression. Elevated diabetic end-diastolic intensity ratios were correlated with the suppression of diastolic function (p <0.05). Furthermore, the expected increase in myosin head transfer by dobutamine was significantly blunted in diabetic animals (p <0.05). Interfilament spacing did not differ between groups. We reveal that impaired cross-bridge disposition and radial transfer may thus underlie the early decline in ventricular function observed in diabetic cardiomyopathy.