Type 1 diabetes is the consequence of exposure of genetically susceptible individuals to specific environmental precipitants. The innate immune system provides the initial response to exogenous antigen and links with the adaptive immune system. The aim of this study was to assess the role of polymorphisms occurring in the cytoplasmic region of toll-like receptor (TLR) 3 gene and immediate 5' sequence, in subjects of Zulu descent with type 1 diabetes in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Seventy-nine subjects with type 1 diabetes and 74 healthy normal glucose tolerant gender-matched control subjects were studied. Parts of exon 4 and exon 3/intron 3 of the TLR3 gene were studied by polymerase chain reaction, direct sequencing and restriction enzyme digestion with Bts 1. Of the nine polymorphisms studied, a significant association with type 1 diabetes was found for the major allele in the 2593 C/T polymorphism and for the minor alleles in the 2642 C/A and 2690 A/G polymorphisms, which were found to be in complete linkage disequilibrium. Correction of the P-values for the number of alleles studied, however, rendered the results no longer significant. These results suggest that polymorphisms in the TLR3 gene, which is part of the innate immune system, may be associated with type 1 diabetes in this population.