It remains to be convincingly demonstrated whether insulin-requiring, ketosis-prone, lean-at-onset, type I diabetics who develop their disease after age 40 have the same disease as the children with similar characteristics. To address this question, we examined the population HLA genetic associations of this group. One hundred forty white, insulin-using diabetics with onset of disease past age 40 yr and 268 normal white controls have thus far been analyzed for HLA type. In the group of patients who were lean-at-onset and/or ketosis-prone (N = 54), there was a significantly increased frequency of DR4 (RR = 4.63; P < 0.01) and significantly decreased frequency of DR2 (RR = 0.18; P < 0.05) after correction. DR4 was also significantly increased after correction (RR = 5.72; P < 0.025) in the subgroup who were both lean and ketosis-prone (N = 23). No significant differences in HLA-DR frequencies were found between the obese and not-ketosis-prone group (N = 69) and controls. No significant associations of HLA-A or -B antigens with either group were observed after correction for the number of antigens tested. To our knowledge, this is the first such study in the United States, and the first demonstrating that late onset diabetics who are lean-at-onset and/or ketosis-prone exhibit HLA-DR antigen associations which are similar to early onset cases.