The aim of this study was to investigate whether mutations in hepatocyte nuclear factor (HNF)-4gamma, a transcription factor homologous to HNF-4alpha, contribute to the etiology of early-onset type 2 diabetes. Linkage between diabetes and two polymorphic markers at the HNF-4gamma locus (D8S286 and D8S548) was evaluated in 32 multigenerational families with early-onset autosomal-dominant type 2 diabetes unlinked to known maturity-onset diabetes of the young genes. Total logarithm of odds (LOD) scores were strongly negative (-50.3 at D8S286 and -46.2 at D8S548), but linkage could not be excluded in 15 families having LOD scores >-2.0. To screen these pedigrees for HNF-4gamma mutations, the gene structure was defined. Because reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction experiments indicated that the first 1,674 bp of the published cDNA sequence (3,248 bp) were a cloning artifact, the correct cDNA sequence was determined by 5' rapid amplification of cDNA ends (RACE) and primer extension assay. Based on the new cDNA sequence (1,731 bp), 11 exons were found. After screening the 5' flanking region and all coding exons for mutations, we identified several polymorphisms, one of which affected the amino acid sequence (M190I). However, no mutations segregating with diabetes could be found in these families. We conclude that genetic variability in the HNF-4gamma gene is unlikely to play a major role in the etiology of early-onset autosomal-dominant type 2 diabetes.