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Maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY) type 3 is a dominantly inherited form of diabetes, which is often misdiagnosed as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). Phenotypic analysis of members from four large Finnish MODY3 kindreds (linked to chromosome 12q with a maximum lod score of 15) revealed a severe impairment in insulin secretion, which was present also in those normoglycemic family members who had inherited the MODY3 gene. In contrast to patients with NIDDM, MODY3 patients did not show any features of the insulin resistance syndrome. They could be discriminated from patients with IDDM by lack of glutamic acid decarboxylase antibodies (GAD-Ab). Taken together with our recent findings of linkage between this region on chromosome 12 and an insulin-deficient form of NIDDM (NIDDM2), the data suggest that mutations at the MODY3/NIDDM2 gene(s) result in a reduced insulin secretory response, that subsequently progresses to diabetes and underlines the importance of subphenotypic classification in studies of diabetes.