Background genetic factors may influence the variability in the rate of progression of kidney disease in type 1 diabetes. In diabetes, progressive mesangial matrix expansion and glomerular sclerosis are, to a large extent, mediated by TGF-β1. Decorin, a proteoglycan which is a component of the extracellular matrix, regulates TGF-β1 activity and expression. We have examined the relationship between the 179/183/185 polymorphism of the Decorin gene and the progression of diabetic nephropathy. Methods: From a cohort of 175 European patients with diabetic nephropathy, we studied 79 patients who were selected because they had a follow-up of at least 2 years (average 6.5 years; range: 2.5–15 years), and regular measurements of serum creatinine on 5 or more occasions. Creatinine clearance (CrCl) calculated from serum creatinine concentration was used as a measure of derived glomerular filtration rate (dGFR). All patients were on antihypertensive therapy. Results: The rate of dGFR decline in the whole cohort was [median (range)] 4.6 (–3.8 to 18) ml/min/year. No patient with 185 allele was found. Patients with 179/183 and 179/179 genotype (n = 14), who were considered together and named 179 carriers, had a slower rate of GFR decline [2.1 (0.06–11.7) ml/min/year] as compared to patients with Decorin 183/183 genotype (n = 65) [5.6 (–3.8 to 18) ml/min/year; p < 0.001]. In addition, when considering individual data, patients carrying the 179 allele had a 3.0 (95%CI: 1.8–4.2)-fold higher probability to be slow progressors (i.e. GFR decline below the median). This difference could not be accounted for by differences in duration of disease, type and duration of antihypertensive therapy, albumin excretion rate, blood glucose or blood pressure control. In a multivariate logistic analysis albumin excretion rate (p < 0.001), mean arterial pressure (p = 0.07) and Decorin gene polymorphism (p = 0.036), but not HbA1c, were independently correlated with the rate of dGFR fall. Conclusion: The 179 allele variant of the Decorin gene is related to a slower progression of DN in type 1 diabetic patients with albuminuria and receiving antihypertensive therapy.