To study the persistence of Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus associated autoantibodies and their relation to genetic risk markers and clinical characteristics of the disease after clinical manifestation, serum samples were obtained from 90 children and adolescents at diagnosis and 2, 5 and 10 years later. The samples were analysed for islet cell antibodies (ICA) by immunofluorescence and for antibodies to glutamic acid decarboxylase (GADA), intracellular portion of the protein tyrosine phosphatase related IA-2 antigen (IA-2A) and insulin autoantibodies by specific radiobinding assays. Of the subjects tested 79% were positive for IA-2A at diagnosis, 62% for GADA, 81% for ICA and 28% for insulin autoantibodies, but the prevalence of IA-2A, GADA and ICA decreased substantially as a function of increasing duration of the disease (p < 0.05 or less), their levels following the same pattern (p < 0.001 for all three autoantibodies). Two thirds of the subjects still tested positive for at least one autoantibody specificity after the first 10 years of the disease and 42% had two or three antibodies detectable. An increase over the initial antibody concentrations after the diagnosis was seen more often for GADA than for ICA (p < 0.001) or IA-2A (p < 0.05). In conclusion, autoantibodies associated with Type I diabetes appear to persist longer than expected after manifestation of the clinical disease, possibly due to small scale continuous beta-cell regeneration after diagnosis or to structural and/or functional mimicry between exogenous proteins and beta-cell antigens or both.