The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) contains multiple and diverse genes which may be relevant to the induction and regulation of autoimmune responses in insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). In addition to HLA class I and II, the possible candidates include TNF, C4, and several other poorly defined polymorphic genes in the central MHC region. This study describes two approaches which take advantage of the fact that the relevant genes are carried by highly conserved ancestral haplotypes such as 8.1 (HLA-B8, TNFS, C4AQ0, C4B1, DR3, DQ2). First, three "diabetogenic" haplotypes (two Caucasoid and one Mongoloid) have been compared and it has been shown that all three share a rare allele of BAT3 as well as sharing DR3, DQ2. In 43 sequential patients with IDDM the cross product ratio for BAT3S was 4.8 (p less than 0.01) and 6.9 for HLA-B8 plus BAT3S (p less than 0.001). Second, partial or recombinant ancestral haplotypes with either HLA class I (HLA-B8) or II (HLA-DR3, DQ2) alleles were identified. Third, using haplotypic polymorphisms such as the one in BAT3, we have shown that all the patients carrying recombinants of the 8.1 ancestral haplotype share the central region adjacent to HLA-B. These findings suggest that both HLA and non-HLA genes are involved in conferring susceptibility to IDDM, and that the region between HLA-B and BAT3 contains some of the relevant genes. By contrast, similar approaches suggest that protective genes map to the HLA class II region.