Aims/hypothesis. Beta cell loss in Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes mellitus may result from apoptosis and necrosis induced by inflammatory mediators. The suppressor of cytokine signalling (SOCS)-3 is a natural inhibitor of cytokine signalling and also influences insulin signalling. SOCS3 could therefore be a candidate gene in the development of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes mellitus. Methods. Mutation analysis of the SOCS3 gene was performed in 21 patients with Type 1 diabetes mellitus and in seven healthy subjects. An identified promoter variant was examined in (i) 250 families with Type 1 diabetic family members (1097 individuals); (ii) 212 glucose-tolerant first-degree relatives of Type 2 diabetic patients; and (iii) 370 population-based young, healthy subjects who were unrelated. Results. Three mutations were identified in the promoter region, but none in the coding region or the 3′UTR. Two of the three mutations had allele frequencies below 1% whereas the C -920→A substitution had a minor allele frequency of 8%. In the group of young healthy subjects the insulin sensitivity index was higher among homozygous carriers of the A-allele than among heterozygous and wild-type subjects (p=0.027, uncorrected). The same trend was found in the group of first-degree relatives of Type 2 diabetic patients. No association or linkage was found to Type 1 diabetes mellitus. Conclusions/interpretation, Homozygosity for the A-allele of the C -920→A promoter polymorphism of the SOCS3 gene may be associated with increased whole-body insulin sensitivity, but deserves further investigation.