Genetic hemochromatosis (GH) is closely associated with genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) on chromosome 6. Recently, a candidate gene for GH, with structural similarities to MHC class I genes, designated HLA-H and presently named HFE, has been cloned. The HFE gene is localized telomeric to the MHC and several reports have indicated that the HFE gene is mutated in GH patients. In the present study we have analyzed the relationship of HFE gene variants and disease manifestation in GH patients and family members. Fifty-seven patients with GH, 73 family members and 153 healthy blood donors were studied for the amino acid dimorphism at codon 63 (His63Asp=H63D) and codon 282 (Cys282Tyr=C282Y) of the HFE gene. The codon 63 and 282 dimorphism were defined by PCR amplification of genomic DNA samples and restriction enzyme digestion using RsaI/SnaBI for C282Y and BclI/MboI for H63D. Ferritin, transferrin serum levels and total iron-binding capacity were determined prior to therapeutic intervention. The Tyr-282 substitution occurred in 53 (93%) of patients compared with 8 (5.2%) of controls (OR=169, P<0.0001). Fifty-one (90%) patients were Tyr-282 homozygous. In contrast, the Asp-63 substitution was present in 5 (8.8%) of the patients compared with 34 (22%) of controls (OR=0.39, P=NS) with none of the patients being homozygous. In Tyr-282 homozygous GH patients serum ferritin levels, transferrin saturation, liver iron and liver iron index were elevated significantly compared to Tyr-282-negative patients, whereas no difference was observed between Tyr/Cys-282 heterozygous and Tyr-282-negative patients.