HLA-DQ genes are the main inherited factors predisposing to IDDM. This gene region harbors long terminal repeat (DQ LTR) elements of the human endogenous retrovirus HER V-K, which we analyzed for a possible association with disease. We first investigated whether LTR segregate with DQ alleles in families. Members (n = 110) of 29 families with at least one diabetic child, unrelated patients with IDDM (n = 159), and healthy controls (n = 173) were analyzed. Genomic DNA was amplified for DQ LTR3 by a nested primer approach as well as for DQA1 and DQB1 second exons, to assign DQA1 and DQB1 alleles. DQ LTR segregated in 24 families along with DQ alleles. Of the 29 families, 20 index patients were positive for DQ LTR. The DQ LTR was in all patients on the haplotype carrying the DQA1 *0301 and DQB1 *0302 alleles. A majority of patients had DQ LTR (62%) compared with controls (38%) (p < 1.3 x 10(-5)), even after matching for the high-risk alleles DQA1 *0501, DQB1 *0201-DQA1 *0301, and DQB1 *0302 (79% of patients and 48% of controls; p < 0.02). Subtyping for DRB1 *04 alleles in all DQB1 *0302+ individuals showed 56% DRB1 *0401, DQB1 *0302 [LTR' patients vs. 29% controls with the same haplotype (p < 0.002)]. In conclusion, these data demonstrate the segregation of DQ LTR with DQA1, DQB1 alleles on HLA haplotypes. Furthermore their presence on DRB1 *0401-, DQA1 *0301-, and DQB1 *0302-positive haplotypes suggest that they contribute to DQ-related susceptibility for IDDM.