The metabolic or insulin resistance syndrome, characterized by hypertension, dyslipidemia, glucose intolerance and hyperinsulinemia, may have genetic determinants. The insulin gene (INS), insulin receptor gene (INSR) and insulin receptor substrate 1 gene (IRS1) have been proposed as candidate genes. We examined eight polymorphisms in these genes in 163 individuals from Yucatan, Mexico; this population has a high prevalence of obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus and dyslipidemia. Subjects were evaluated for body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure. Blood samples were collected to determine glucose, insulin, triglycerides and cholesterol levels, as well as for DNA isolation. Restriction fragment length polymorphisms in INS, INSR and IRS1 were identified by polymerase chain reaction and digestion with selected restriction enzymes. Among the eight polymorphisms analyzed, the PstI polymorphism in INS was significantly associated with hypertriglyceridemia and with the presence of at least one abnormality related to the metabolic syndrome (P=0.007 and 0.004, respectively). The MaeIII polymorphism in INS was associated with fasting hyperinsulinemia (P=0.045). In multilocus analyses including both INS polymorphisms, significant associations were seen with hypertriglyceridemia (P=0.006), hypercholesterolemia (P=0.031) and with presence of at least one metabolic abnormality (P=0.009). None of the polymorphisms in INSR or IRS1 was associated with any of these traits. These findings suggest that the insulin gene may be an important determinant of metabolic syndrome, and particularly of dyslipidemia, in this population.