Type 1A diabetes mellitus is caused by specific and progressive autoimmune destruction of the beta cells in the islets of Langerhans whereas the other cell types in the islet (alpha, delta, and PP) are spared. The autoantigens of Type 1A diabetes may be divided into subgroups based on their tissue distributions: Beta-cell-specific antigens like insulin, insulin derivatives, and IGRP (Islet-specific Glucose-6-phosphatase catalytic subunit Related Peptide); neurendocrine antigens such as carboxypeptidase H, insulinoma-associated antigen (IA-2), glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD65), and carboxypeptidase E; and those expressed ubiquitously like heat shock protein 60 (a putative autoantigen for type 1 diabetes). This review will focus specifically on insulin as a primary autoantigen, an essential target for disease, in type 1A diabetes mellitus. In particular, immunization with insulin peptide B:9-23 can be used to induce insulin autoantibodies and diabetes in animal models or used to prevent diabetes. Genetic manipulation of the insulin 1 and 2 genes reciprocally alters development of diabetes in the NOD mouse, and insulin gene polymorphisms are important determinants of childhood diabetes. We are pursuing the hypothesis that insulin is a primary autoantigen for type 1 diabetes, and thus the pathogenesis of the disease relates to specific recognition of one or more peptides.