DNA isolated from diabetic BB (BB/Hagedorn) rats was examined for restriction fragment length differences within the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) as compared with nondiabetic (W-subline) BB rats. Polymorphisms were detected using a mouse class I MHC gene as probe. Specifically, a 2-kb BamHI fragment was present in all the nondiabetic rats examined, but absent in the diabetic rats. Similar polymorphisms were observed with various other restriction enzymes, particularly XbaI, HindII, and SacI. There were no polymorphisms detected using either a human DR-alpha (class II antigen heavy chain) or a human DC-beta (class II antigen light chain) gene as probes. These results indicate that the BB rat diabetic syndrome may be linked to differences in class I MHC genes.