A study was made of glucose tolerance and insulin secretion in 33 persons who later developed insulin-dependent diabetes (aged 4-24 years) and observation continued further in the first years after manifestation. Patients who developed the typical labile type of diabetes were of normal weight and had either normal glucose tolerance tests before diagnosis or had impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) for a short interval of 2-16 months. Subjects with IGT over a significantly (p less than 0.01) longer period of 32.30 +/- 6.25 (normal body weight) or 94.71 +/- 20.62 (obese) months developed a milder form of diabetes with retarded insulin dependency in obese subjects. The severe and mild form of IDDM are distinct with respect to insulin requirement (0.75 +/- 0.03 or 0.28 +/- 0.04 U/kg b.w., P less than 0.01) and glucagon stimulated C-peptide (0.18 +/- 0.05 or 1.41 +/- 0.27, P less than 0.01) in the first 2.5-3.5 years after onset. The two forms were not different regarding HLA-DR antigens. Islet cell surface antibodies investigated in 15 probands at 27 occasions before diabetes onset had no prognostic value. The development of a mild form of IDDM may be expected in cases with pre-existing IGT for more than one year. The insulin secretion is of low predictive value under these conditions. The observation is of practical use and theoretical interest.