Type 2 diabetes mellitus results from the interaction of environmental factors with a combination of genetic variants, most of which were hitherto unknown. A systematic search for these variants was recently made possible by the development of high-density arrays that permit the genotyping of hundreds of thousands of polymorphisms. We tested 392,935 single-nucleotide polymorphisms in a French case-control cohort. Markers with the most significant difference in genotype frequencies between cases of type 2 diabetes and controls were fast-tracked for testing in a second cohort. This identified four loci containing variants that confer type 2 diabetes risk, in addition to confirming the known association with the TCF7L2 gene. These loci include a non-synonymous polymorphism in the zinc transporter SLC30A8, which is expressed exclusively in insulin-producing beta-cells, and two linkage disequilibrium blocks that contain genes potentially involved in beta-cell development or function (IDE-KIF11-HHEX and EXT2-ALX4). These associations explain a substantial portion of disease risk and constitute proof of principle for the genome-wide approach to the elucidation of complex genetic traits.