In addition to the major genetic determinants of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) on chromosome 6, there are also minor genetic risk markers, e.g. in the insulin gene region on chromosome 11p15.5 (IDDM2). We studied the significance of the-23 HphI polymorphism in the insulin gene region (-23 HphI INS) in the Finnish population in combination with HLA genotyping data. The frequency of the-23 HphI INS +/+ genotype was higher in diabetic subjects with a low risk HLA DQB1 genotype than in control subjects (P = 0.05). Diabetic children in multiple-case families also had a higher frequency of the INS risk genotype than the controls (P < 0.05), and this difference was independent of the HLA genotype. Furthermore, we studied siblings positive for islet cell antibodies (ICAs) and/or insulin autoantibodies (IAAs) to evaluate the impact of the-23 HphI INS +/+ genotype on their beta-cell function assessed by sequential intravenous glucose tolerance tests and on their progression to IDDM. When analysing siblings with a low-risk HLA DQB1 genotype, those with the-23 HphI INS +/+ genotype had lower first phase insulin responses (P < 0.02) on several occasions than the remaining sibling. Six siblings (26.1%) in the former group progressed to clinical disease during the observation period, whereas none in the latter group presented with IDDM (P = 0.01). These observations suggest that the-23 HphI INS +/+ polymorphism is associated with an increased risk of IDDM in subjects without predisposing genes in the MHC region. The enhanced susceptibility may be related to a reduced insulin secretory capacity.