An association between insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) and polymorphisms of the insulin gene on chromosome 11p15 (INS) is a consistent finding in Europid populations. While one study suggested that the INS association is restricted to HLA-DR4-positive individuals, studies in other Europid populations have shown the disease-associated INS genotype to confer susceptibility independently of HLA-DR. We have investigated the role of INS in susceptibility to IDDM in Finland, which has the highest incidence of diabetes mellitus in the world, at two polymorphic restriction sites, 5' and 3' to the insulin gene. From the DiMe (Childhood Diabetes in Finland) Study we studied 154 diabetic children without regard to HLA-DR type; 108 DR4 positive/non-DR3 diabetic children; 39 DR3 positive/non-DR4 diabetic children; 30 DR4/DR3 positive diabetic children; 31 non-DR4/non-DR3 diabetic children; 96 matched DiMe control subjects and 86 other healthy, non-diabetic Finnish control subjects. We found an overall association between IDDM and INS in the high-risk Finnish population only with the 5' polymorphism and identified an INS haplotype negatively associated with IDDM in Finland. However, among diabetic subjects with a reduced HLA-associated susceptibility (non-DR4/non-DR3) both 3' and 5' INS loci showed an association with IDDM (p values 0.02 and 0.0002, respectively). Thus, in the Finnish population insulin gene-encoded susceptibility to IDDM exerts a maximum effect in those with reduced HLA-associated risk.