A genome-wide linkage scan was conducted to identify regions potentially having quantitative trait loci (QTLs) influencing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. We found suggestive evidence of a QTL (lod score (LOD) = 1.75, p = 0.00224, and q = 0.07649) influencing the variation of plasma levels of age- and sex-adjusted HDL-cholesterol on chromosome 15q21 at marker D15S659 in the NHLBI FHS data. Owing to the perturbations to lipid profiles associated with diabetes, the analysis was repeated excluding diabetic subjects from the sample. The lod score increased from 1.75 to 2.71 (p = 0.00021, q = 0.05392) at the same chromosome 15 location, despite the reduction in sample size. This finding indicates that the inclusion of diabetic subjects in the analysis may confound the presence of a QTL for HDL-cholesterol on 15q21. Because of the known effects of important covariates such as metabolic variables and lifestyle habits that may interact with a putative QTL, we also analyzed HDL-cholesterol with a progressive adjustment. When body mass index, smoking, and habitual alcohol intake were added to age- and sex-adjustment, we found strong evidence for linkage in the complete sample (LOD = 4.77, p = 0.0000013, and q = 0.00016) as well as in the non-diabetic sub-sample (LOD = 4.52, p = 0.0000025, and q = 0.00026) on chromosome 15q21 (between D15S659 and D15S195 markers). These results suggest that there are multiple pathways and factors involving genetic and environmental effects influencing HDL-cholesterol levels, and by taking some of these known factors into account, we obtained strong evidence of a QTL influencing HDL-cholesterol levels. While this putative QTL may also have an effect in diabetes, our data suggest a more pronounced role in non-diabetics. A prominent candidate gene residing within the linkage region on 15q21 is hepatic lipase (HL), which has a major role in lipoprotein metabolism. © 2006 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.