To gain insight into the HLA subregions involved in protection against insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) we investigated the polymorphism of HLA-DR and -DQ genes in 23 DR2 IDDM patients. Results show the following. (1) Fourteen patients (61%) possess the DRB1, DRB5, and DQB1 alleles found in DRw16/DQw5 healthy people. These data contrast with the 5% of DRw16 normally found in DR2 populations and are in agreement with former observations supporting that the DRw16 haplotype is not protective. (2) Nine DR2 patients, i.e., 39% versus 95% in published DR2 controls, possess the DRB alleles found in DRw15 unaffected people. Among them, six patients have also DQA1 and DQB1 alleles identical to those found in DRw15/DQw6 healthy individuals. These data confirm that the DRw15/DQw6 haplotype is protective but indicate that none of the DR or DQ alleles, alone or in association, confers an absolute protection. (3) Our most striking results concern the very high frequency of recombinant haplotypes among the DRw15 patients: 3 of 9. In these three patients recombinations led to the elimination of both DQB1 and DQA1 alleles usually associated with DRw15. This strongly suggests that the occurrence of IDDM in these DRw15 patients is due to the absence of the usual DQ product and thus reinforces the assumption that DQ rather than DR region is involved in the protection conferred by the DRw15/DQw6 haplotype. Finally, analysis of the non-DRw15 haplotypes in heterozygous patients showed that IDDM can occur in the absence of any DQ alpha beta heterodimer of susceptibility.