We have typed 27 Caucasoid families for DNA restriction fragment length polymorphisms and specific sequences using HLA class II specific cDNA, genomic and oligonucleotide probes. DNA haplotypes were identified by restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis that correlated with previously serologically-defined extended major histocompatibility haplotypes. These DNA haplotypes sort into positive, neutral or negative associations with Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus. The DNA susceptibility haplotypes are even more simply and specifically defined by oligonucleotide probes for sequences of DQA and DQB genes. Our oligonucleotide probes define variabilities in nucleotide sequences coding for amino acid residues 26, 37 and 38 in the DQ beta-chain. Probes defining DQA sequences are also important for defining susceptibility since certain DQA genes appear to modify DQB susceptibility by conferring resistance. Thus, major histocompatibility conferred susceptibility to diabetes cannot be adequately explained by an amino acid change at a single position in the DQ beta-chain. These probes allow the direct identification of major histocompatibility susceptibility genes in Type 1 diabetes without the necessity of determining full haplotypes.