We analyzed 747 children, younger than 15 yr of age, with newly diagnosed diabetes, for antibodies to glutamic acid decarboxylase (GADA), the IA-2 protein (IA-2A), insulin (IAA), and islet cells, to evaluate the influence of positivity for GADA, IA-2A, IAA, or multiple (> or = 3) autoantibodies at diagnosis, on the clinical presentation and natural course of the disease over the first 2 yr and to characterize autoantibody-negative patients. At diagnosis, 73.2% of the children tested positive for GADA, 85.7% for IA-2A, 54.2% for IAA, and 72.6% for multiple autoantibodies. Only 17 subjects (2.3%) had no detectable autoantibodies. The patients testing positive for multiple autoantibodies were younger than the remaining children (P < 0.001). A similar age difference was seen when comparing IAA-positive and -negative patients (P < 0.001). There was no significant difference between the GADA-positive and -negative subjects in the degree of metabolic decompensation at diagnosis, whereas those testing positive for IA-2A had reduced serum C-peptide concentrations (P = 0.003), and those positive for IAA had lower glycated hemoglobin values. The patients with no detectable autoantibodies had higher serum C-peptide levels (P = 0.007) at diagnosis than did the other subjects. The children initially positive for IA-2A had decreased serum C-peptide concentrations at 24 months (P = 0.045), and their daily insulin dose was higher at 18 (P = 0.005) and 24 months (P < 0.001). The patients who tested positive for multiple autoantibodies at diagnosis had decreased serum C-peptide levels (P < 0.001) and higher insulin doses (P = 0.005) at 12, 18, and 24 months. A lower proportion of them were also in clinical remission at 12 and 18 months (P = 0.01). Autoantibody-negative subjects needed less exogenous insulin at 6 and 18 (P = 0.01) and at 24 months (P < 0.001) than the other subjects, and a higher proportion of them were in clinical remission at 18 months (P < 0.001). We conclude that positivity for multiple diabetes-related autoantibodies is associated with accelerated beta-cell destruction and an increased requirement for exogenous insulin over the second year of clinical disease, indicating that multiple autoantibodies reflect an aggressive progression to total beta-cell destruction. Patients testing negative for diabetes-associated autoantibodies at diagnosis seem to have a milder degree of beta-cell destruction, but their metabolic decompensation is similar to that seen in other affected children, suggesting that they do represent classical type 1 diabetes.