AIMS: The membrane-bound fatty acid transporter CD36/FAT may play a role in disturbed fatty acid handling as observed in the metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Genetic variation in the CD36 gene may contribute to the aetiology of diabetes. METHODS: A population-based cohort in the Netherlands [age > 40 years and body mass index (BMI) > 25 kg/m2] of 675 subjects was phenotyped with respect to glucose metabolism with an oral glucose tolerance test and was genotyped for a known 478C-->T substitution and a C/T snp in the upstream promoter region (rs1527479) in the CD36 gene. RESULTS: T2DM was more prevalent in the TT genotype than in the CC genotype. This was most pronounced in women and in subjects with a high BMI (BMI > 27 kg/m2). In addition, within the group of diabetic patients, the TT genotype was commoner in subjects with increased homeostasis model assessment (HOMA) index for insulin resistance. The 478C-->T substitution, previously found in the Japanese population, was not found in our caucasian population. CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study to show a direct association of a CD36 snp with T2DM. Moreover, within the diabetic subjects, this CD36 snp was associated with insulin resistance (HOMA index).