1. Forty-five identical twin pairs, discordant for insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, were studied with respect to their serum lipid (high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein, total cholesterol and triacylglycerol) and apoprotein [apoprotein A-I, apoprotein B and lipoprotein (a)] concentrations and apoprotein (a) phenotypes. The twins were compared with an age- and sex-matched non-diabetic control group.
2. A significantly higher value was found only for high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in the diabetic twins of the female twin pairs.
3. Highly significant correlations existed between the twin pairs for all lipids and lipoproteins measured, particularly lipoprotein (a), for which identical apoprotein (a) isoforms were also found.
4. Correlations existed between the non-diabetic twins and the control subjects for high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and apoprotein A-I, probably due to the rigorous matching of control subjects.
5. The similarity between values for lipids and lipoproteins in the non-diabetic twins and control subjects suggested no effect of a genetic susceptibility to insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. The differences in lipoproteins we describe for the identical twins discordant for insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, in whom there was no evidence of a raised urinary albumin excretion rate, does not appear to explain the excess mortality from cardiovascular disease reported in patients with this disease.