Diabetes (db) is an autosomal recessive mutation located in the midportion of mouse chromosome 4 that results in profound obesity with hyperphagia, increased metabolic efficiency, and insulin resistance. To clone this gene and generate a molecular map of the region around this mutation, two genetic crosses were established: an intraspecific backcross between C57BL/6J db/db females and C57BL/6J db/db x DBA/2J +/+ F1 (B6D2 db/+ F1) male mice and an interspecific intercross between B6D2 db/+ F1 males and C57BL/6J db/db x Mus spretus F1 (B6spretus db/+ F1) females. The progeny of both crosses were characterized for genotype at the db locus to map a series of restriction fragment length polymorphisms relative to the db locus. Measurements of body weight, body length, and plasma concentrations of glucose and insulin in the animals allowed the assignment of genotype (db/db vs. db/+ or +/+). A total of 132 progeny of the intraspecific cross and 48 db/db progeny of the interspecific cross were typed for individual restriction fragment length polymorphisms to generate a gene order of: centromere-brown (Mt4)-P lambda Mm3(2)-Ifa (Inta)-Cjun-db-D4Rp1-Glut1-Mtv-13-Lck. Several of the genes that are linked to db [Cjun, glucose transporter (Glut1) and Lck] map to human chromosome 1p, suggesting that db may be part of a syntenic group between human 1p and the distal portion of mouse chromosome 4. In addition, phenotyping of the progeny of these crosses revealed a wide range in plasma concentrations of glucose and insulin among the obese progeny, with some animals developing overt diabetes and other remaining euglycemic. Distributions of age-controlled plasma [glucose] and [insulin] among the intraspecific-cross obese progeny were not bimodal, suggesting a role for polygenic differences between the progenitor strains (C57BL/6J and DBA/2J) in the development of overt diabetes.