Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the etiology of non-insulin-dependent diabetes. The genetic component is heterogeneous and in some patients is probably complex, involving multiple genes. Specific genetic defects have been identified for rate monogenic forms of NIDDM: maturity-onset diabetes of the young, or MODY (which is due to glucokinase mutations in about 40% of families), syndromes of extreme insulin resistance (which often involve the insulin receptor), and diabetes-deafness syndromes (with defects in mitochondrial genes). In contrast, the genes involved in common forms of NIDDM are still uncertain. Mutations have been extensively searched in genes regulating insulin signaling and secretion. Some evidence of involvement has been produced for insulin-receptor substrate-1, glycogen synthase, the glucagon receptor, a ras-related protein (Rad), histocompatibility antigens, PC-1, and fatty acid binding protein, but the contributions of these genes to NIDDM is probably small. Other candidate genes (e.g. insulin, insulin receptor, glucose transporters) have been excluded as major diabetogenes. New insights are expected in the near future from the systematic scanning of the genome for linkage with NIDDM.