Most valuable breakthroughs in the genetics of type 2 diabetes for the past two decades have arisen from candidate gene studies and familial linkage analysis of maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY), an autosomal dominant form of diabetes typically occurring before 25 years of age caused by primary insulin secretion defects. Despite its low prevalence, MODY is not a single entity but presents genetic, metabolic and clinical heterogeneity. MODY can result from mutations in at least six different genes encoding the glucose sensor enzyme glucokinase and transcription factors that participate in a regulatory network essential for adult beta-cell function. Additional genes have been described in other discrete phenotypes or syndromic forms of diabetes. Whereas common variants in the MODY genes contribute very modestly to type 2 diabetes susceptibility in adults, major findings emerging from the advent of genome-wide association studies will deliver an increasing number of genes and new pathways for the pathological events of the disease.