The contribution of genetic variation at HLA class II loci to the susceptibility to and protection from IDDM was investigated by analyzing the distribution of HLA-DRB1*04 haplotypes in 630 Sardinian newborns and 155 Sardinian IDDM patients. The different RRs and ARs of the various DR4-DQB1*0302 haplotypes, significantly ranging from the strongly associated DRB1*0405, DQB1*0302 to the protective DRB1*0403, DQB1*0302 haplotypes, provides clearcut evidence that the DRB1 locus is crucial in conferring IDDM predisposition or protection. Also, the DQB1 locus influences IDDM predisposition or protection by restricting the disease-positive association to DRB1*0405 haplotypes carrying the susceptibility DQB1*0302 or DQB1*0201 alleles but not the protective DQB1*0301 allele. Haplotype analysis not only suggests that the DRB1 and DQB1 loci influence IDDM risk in the same way, but also that the HLA-linked protection is "dominant" compared with "susceptibility." These results, obtained from a population with one of the highest IDDM incidences in the world, define more clearly the contribution of the various HLA loci to IDDM protection or susceptibility and allow a more precise calculation of AR.