In a prospective screening program for type I diabetes mellitus, we identified a unique family in which several members (mother and three siblings) expressed an unusual set of HLA-DR alleles (DR2+, DR3/4−) and were in different phases of immunologically mediated islet beta cell dysfunction. Immunologic and/or clinical manifestations of type I diabetes were absent in all siblings not sharing both HLA haplotypes in common with the proband. This article illustrates: the clinical utility of prospective family screening for predictive markers, such as islet cell antibodies, progressive autoimmune beta cell destruction can occur in the absence of the “high-risk” alleles HLA-DR3 and DR4, and HLA identity with the proband, rather than specific HLA alleles, i.e., presence of DR3, DR4 and absence of DR2, is an essential factor.

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