Analysis of HLA-associated susceptibility to insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) has largely focused on identifying the susceptibility gene. Adherents of a countertrend have long suggested the importance of analysis of HLA haplotypes (combinations of alleles on 1 chromosome) rather than individual genes. Accumulating data suggest that the relationship between IDDM susceptibility and HLA is much more complex than a single susceptibility gene. Consideration of this question should include the possibilities that 1) more than one HLA gene is involved in determining susceptibility or resistance; 2) different alleles of the same gene may be associated with different pathogenetic mechanisms; and 3) different susceptibility-associated haplotypes, even if they share an allele at an IDDM-relevant locus, may behave differently in IDDM. A better understanding of the genetics, and perhaps the pathogenesis, of IDDM may be obtained by following up the clues offered by analysis of the association of HLA haplotypes (rather than individual alleles) with one another, with clinical features of IDDM, and with possible non-HLA-linked susceptibility factors.

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