A polymorphic region 5' to the human insulin gene has been associated with diabetes in earlier studies. This polymorphic region is composed of tandem repeats that fall into 3 general size classes, designated class 1 (600 base pairs), class 2 (1300 base pairs), and class 3 (2500 base pairs). Frequencies of these classes of alleles vary among racial groups. American Blacks have been underrepresented in published studies of insulin gene polymorphism and diabetes.

We undertook a cooperative study between two centers (San Francisco and St. Louis) to determine genotypes at the insulin locus in 313 unrelated American Blacks (132 nondiabetic, 27 with IDDM, and 154 with NIDDM). In both centers, nondiabetic individuals were younger and leaner than NIDOM patients. Allelic and genotypic frequencies at the insulin locus were not different between the two centers. Class 1 alleles represented 60% of all alleles, class 2 alleles 11%, and class 3 29%. No class of insulin allele was associated with NIDDM in this study. Subdivision of the study population by obesity, family history, or age at diagnosis failed to detect a subgroup for which the insulin allele was associated with NIDDM. Only 27 IDDM individuals were studied, and no significant association of class 1 alleles with this group was noted. However, examination of more IDDM individuals is required before a definitive statement can be made.

Fasting serum triglyceride levels were determined retrospectively in 50 NIDDM individuals. No differences in triglyceride levels among genotypes were noted. The frequency of class 3 alleles in 13 hypertriglyceridemic NIDDM subjects was not different from that of the whole group.

Thus, in American Blacks there is no association of class 3 alleles with NIDDM. Studies using this polymorphic marker in linkage analysis of appropriate families may be more successful in defining a role for the insulin gene in diabetes.

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