Some type 2 diabetic subjects develop secondary failure to sulphonylurea treatment and require insulin therapy. To test the diagnostic sensitivity and specificity of epitopes of GAD65 autoantibodies (GAD65Ab) for insulin requirement, in patients with latent autoimmune diabetes of the adult, we studied 569 adult subjects with a clinical diagnosis of type 2 diabetes mellitus. All the patients had been initially treated with hypoglycemic agents and/or diet for at least 1 yr. The presence of GAD65Ab (61/569, 10.7%) depended on insulin therapy (P<0.0001), low BMI (P<0.0001), and low basal C-peptide (P = 0.01). The majority of GAD65Ab-positive subjects (47/61, 77%) had antibodies directed to both middle (GAD65-MAb) and COOH-terminal (GAD65-CAb) epitopes. However, GAD65-CAb were more frequent in insulin-treated subjects (92% of GAD65Ab+ individuals) than in subjects treated with hypoglycemic agents and/or diet (18.2% of GAD65Ab+ individuals), while the exclusive presence of GAD65-MAb was more frequent in subjects treated with hypoglycemic agents and/or diet (81.8% vs. 8%) (P<0.0001). The presence of GAD65-CAb had a diagnostic specificity for insulin requirement as high as 99.4% (compared with 96.9% of GAD65Ab as measured in the traditional radiobinding assay) and identified a subgroup of patients with low BMI, low basal C-peptide values, and a need for insulin therapy. Subjects carrying only GAD65-MAb were phenotypically indistinguishable from GAD65Ab-negative patients. Patients positive for GAD65-M+CAb, but not those positive for GAD65-MAb only, showed an increased risk for thyroid autoimmunity, as revealed by the presence of thyroid peroxidase autoantibodies. Our study demonstrates that the use of epitope-specific antibody assays improves the diagnostic specificity of GAD65Ab, and that the presence of GAD65Ab binding to COOH-terminal epitopes is strongly associated with a need for insulin requirement.