In a search for a genetic marker of duodenal ulcer, we measured serum pepsinogen I levels in 168 ulcer patients and 151 of their clinically normal siblings. The ulcer patients tended to have either hyperpepsinogenemia I (pepsinogen I, ≥ 100 ng/mL) or a normal level on a familial basis. Further evidence supporting this separation was the finding that the mean serum pepsinogen I level in the clinically normal siblings of the hyperpepsinogenemic patients was 91.2 ng/mL, significantly higher than the mean level (63.1 ng/mL) in the normal siblings of the normopepsinogenemic I patients. In the hyperpepsinogenemic I families the results of segregation analysis of an elevated pepsinogen I were consistent with autosomal-dominant inheritance of this trait. The genetic basis of normopepsinogenemic I duodenal ulcer was also shown by the familial aggregation of this disorder. These data provide direct evidence for genetic heterogeneity of duodenal ulcer disease.