To investigate the role of E23K polymorphism of the KCNJ11 gene on early onset of type 2 diabetes in school-aged children/adolescents in Taiwan, we recruited 38 subjects with type 2 diabetes (ages 18.6 +/- 6.6 years; body mass index percentiles 83.3 +/- 15.4) and 69 normal controls (ages 17.3 +/- 3.8 years; body mass index percentiles 56.7 +/- 29.0) from a national surveillance for childhood/adolescent diabetes in Taiwan. We searched for the E23K polymorphism of the KCNJ11 gene. We found that type 2 diabetic subjects had higher carrier rate of E23K polymorphism of KCNJ11 gene than control subjects (P - 0.044). After adjusting for age, gender, body mass index percentiles, and fasting plasma insulin, the E23K polymorphism contributed to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes (P = 0.047). K23-allele-containing genotypes conferring increased plasma insulin level during OGTT in normal subjects. However, the diabetic subjects with the K23-allele-containing genotypes had lower fasting plasma insulin levels after adjustment of age and BMI percentiles. In conclusion, the E23K variant of the KCNJ11 gene conferred higher susceptibility to type 2 diabetes in children/adolescents. Furthermore, in normal glucose-tolerant children/adolescents, K23 allele carriers had a higher insulin response to oral glucose loading.