Human genome wide association studies (GWAS) have recently identified at least four new, non-MHC-linked candidate genes or gene regions causing type one diabetes (T1D), highlighting the need for functional models to investigate how susceptibility alleles at multiple common genes interact to mediate disease. Progress in localizing genes in congenic strains of the nonobese diabetic (NOD) mouse has allowed the reproducible testing of gene functions and gene-gene interactions that can be reflected biologically as intrapathway interactions, for example, IL-2 and its receptor CD25, pathway-pathway interactions such as two signaling pathways within a cell, or cell-cell interactions. Recent studies have identified likely causal genes in two congenic intervals associated with T1D, Idd3, and Idd5, and have documented the occurrence of gene-gene interactions, including "genetic masking", involving the genes encoding the critical immune molecules IL-2 and CTLA-4. The demonstration of gene-gene interactions in congenic mouse models of T1D has major implications for the understanding of human T1D since such biological interactions are highly likely to exist for human T1D genes. Although it is difficult to detect most gene-gene interactions in a population in which susceptibility and protective alleles at many loci are randomly segregating, their existence as revealed in congenic mice reinforces the hypothesis that T1D alleles can have strong biological effects and that such genes highlight pathways to consider as targets for immune intervention.