Several linkage studies have hinted at the existence of an obesity predisposition locus on chromosome 20, but none of these studies has produced conclusive results. Therefore, we analyzed 48 genetic markers on chromosome 20 for linkage to severe obesity (BMI> or =35) in 103 extended Utah pedigrees (1,711 individuals), all of which had strong aggregation of severe obesity. A simple dominant model produced a maximum multipoint heterogeneity LOD score of 3.5 at D20S438 (55.1 cM). Two additional analyses were performed. First, a one-gene, two-mutation model (with one dominant mutation and one recessive mutation) increased the LOD score to 4.2. Second, a two-locus model (with one locus dominant and one recessive) generated a multipoint LOD score of 4.9. We conclude that one or more severe obesity predisposing genes lie within an interval of approx. 10 cM on chromosome 20. This study generated significant LOD scores which confirm suggestive linkage reports from previous studies. In addition, our analyses suggest that the predisposing gene(s) is localized very near the chromosome 20 centromere.