Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) is a major health problem, affecting 5% of the world population. Genetic factors are important in NIDDM, but the mechanisms leading to glucose intolerance are unknown. Genetic linkage has been investigated in multigeneration families to localize, and ultimately identify, the gene(s) predisposing to NIDDM. Here we report linkage between the glucokinase locus on chromosome 7p and diabetes in 16 French families with maturity-onset diabetes of the young, a form of NIDDM characterized by monogenic autosomal dominant transmission and early age of onset. Statistical evidence of genetic heterogeneity was significant, with an estimated 45-95% of the 16 families showing linkage to glucokinase. Because glucokinase is a key enzyme of blood glucose homeostasis, these results are evidence that a gene involved in glucose metabolism could be implicated in the pathogenesis of NIDDM.