To ascertain why HLA-DR2 seems to confer only a moderate resistance to insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) in the high-incidence population of Sardinia, Italy, 32 families having one individual affected with IDDM (the proband) and 31 families without IDDM history were randomly selected from the same geographical area and serologically and molecularly HLA typed. The 64 haplotypes of the probands were then compared with the 122 haplotypes determined in the parents from the control families. Two haplotypes were found to have the highest percentage in the general population (12.3% and 7.3%, respectively). The first is the already described "Sardinian" extended haplotype A30, Cw5, B18, 3F130, DR3, DRw52, DQw2 (39.0% in IDDM patients). The second is an extended haplotype that has not been identified before (A2, Cw7, B17, 3F31, DR2, DQw1), and, due to the DR2 allele, we expected it to be decreased in IDDM. However, a stratified analysis performed by removing the DR3 and DR4 haplotypes showed that the frequency of this haplotype is significantly increased in IDDM patients. A peculiar feature of this haplotype is its DQw1 allele, which is DQB1*0502 and has serine in position 57 of the DQ beta chain. The absence of an aspartic acid in this position seems to confer susceptibility to IDDM and not resistance. The fact that DQB1*0502 was present in 75% of the Sardinian DR2 haplotypes may explain why, in Sardinia, DR2 is not providing the commonly recognized resistance to IDDM.