Susceptibility to multifactorial disease includes both genetic and environmental components. These two aspects of susceptibility are interlinked through genetic control of an individual's response to the environment. As a first step in identifying disease susceptibility genes that influence the response of an individual to foreign compounds (xenobiotics), it is necessary to study disorders in which there is an identified environmental trigger. Establishing a DNA resource from individuals with known environmental exposure ('a xenogenetic register') for diseases with an established environmental aetiology is an essential step in beginning to understand how environmental factors contribute to the susceptibility to polygenic diseases. A complementary approach to identification of environmental factors is suggested using a comparison of genetically homogeneous subdivisions of individuals with polygenic diseases where there is no clue to the environmental trigger.