We evaluated Alabama hemochromatosis probands (n = 74) and normal control subjects (n = 142) for expression of the hemochromatosis-associated mutations nt 845G → A (845A; Cys282Tyr) and nt 187C → G (His63Asp) in a gene linked to the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). We also tabulated parameters of iron metabolism and iron overload in probands and in obligate heterozygote family members of homozygous Cys282Typ probands. Among probands, 59.4% were Cys282Tyr homozygotes and 20.3% were heterozygotes; 20.3% did not express this mutation. In normal control subjects, 14.7% were heterozygous for the Cys282Tyr mutation; one normal control subject was homozygous for the Cys282Tyr mutation. None (0 of 44) of our Cys282Tyr-homozygous hemochromatosis probands had the His63Asp mutation. Of the Cys282Tyr- heterozygous and -negative probands, the His63Asp mutation occurred in 26.7% (4/15) and 53.3% (8/15), respectively. In normal control subjects, 23.2% were heterozygous for the His63Asp mutation; 2.8% were homozygous. Induction phlebotomy requirements and other manifestations of iron overload were significantly greater in Cys282Tyr homozygotes than among other probands. Cys282Tyr-heterozygous probands had significantly higher values of serum iron parameters than did obligate Cys282Tyr heterozygotes whose values were, on the average, normal. Co-expression of HLA-A3, HLA-B7, and D6S105(8) was significantly more frequent in all sub-groups of probands stratified by Cys282Tyr expression than in normal control subjects. These results demonstrate that the severity of iron overload in hemochromatosis is affected significantly by genetic factors. Further, our findings support the hypothesis that one or more MHC-linked genes other than that corresponding to the Cys282Tyr and His63Asp mutations contributes to increased iron absorption and iron overload in hemochromatosis probands.