We studied the effects of genetic and environmental influences on factor VII coagulant activity (VIIc) in Chinese diabetic patients (263 with Type II [non-insulin-dependent] diabetes mellitus, 78 with Type I [insulin-dependent] diabetes mellitus) and 143 normal control subjects. VIIc was measured by a one-stage biological assay. The R/Q353 or Msp1 polymorphism at codon 353 of the factor VII gene was detected after Msp1 digestion of polymerase chain reaction-amplified genomic DNA. In both diabetic and control subjects the allele frequencies of the R (M1) and Q (M2) alleles were 0.96 and 0.04; the corresponding reported frequencies in Caucasians being 0.90 and 0.10: VIIc were 21% lower in Chinese control subjects and Type I diabetic patients with R/Q, compared with R/R subjects (p < 0.001 and p < 0.05). The corresponding difference was 4% for Type II diabetc patients (p = NS). Type II diabetic patients had higher mean VIIc levels than control subjects and Type I diabetic patients (p < 0.01); they were also older, and had higher serum creatinine and triglyceride (all p < 0.01). They also had higher VIIc levels than an age-matched older control group (p < 0.01; n = 182) in whom the genotype effect was clearly seen. On stepwise linear regression analysis, the significant independent determinants of VIIc were serum triglyceride (contributing 20% and 25% to variance in control subjects and diabetic patients), the R/Q353 genotype (contributing to 12% of the variance in control subjects but only 1% in diabetic patients), age and total cholesterol in all subjects, and in the diabetic patients female sex, urinary albumin excretion rate and serum creatinine. VIIc was higher in diabetic patients with macroangiopathy and retinopathy (both p < 0.0001). We conclude that compared with Caucasians, the Q allele frequency is significantly lower in these Chinese subjects. Plasma VIIc is determined by both genetic and environmental influences such that in Chinese Type II diabetic patients, the effect of environmental factors predominates, almost negating the influence of the R/Q353 genotype. High VIIc may contribute to the increased cardiovascular risk in Type II diabetic patients.