We investigated whether genetic mutations known to impair insulin secretion and glucose tolerance are operative in a group of American women with gestational diabetes mellitus. Study groups were comprised of elderly non-diabetic controls (n = 55) with normal glucose tolerance and patients with gestational diabetes (n = 50), together with one family with maturity-onset diabetes of the young (three controls and three affected). No mutations were detected in any exon of the human glucokinase gene or the mitochondrial tRNA[Leu](UUR) gene by single strand conformational analysis and direct exon sequencing. Also, chi2 analysis showed no significant association with gestational diabetes for a polymorphism at position -30 (G --> A) of the beta-cell-specific glucokinase gene promoter. We have determined that glucokinase and mitochondrial tRNA[Leu](UUR) gene mutations, which are known to impair insulin secretion are relatively uncommon and do not constitute a large component of genetic risk for gestational diabetes in the study population.