The evolutionary relationships among the MHC class II DRB4, DRB5 and DRB6 loci as well as the allelic lineages and alleles of the DRB1 locus were studied based on intron 1 and intron 2 sequences from humans, chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), bonobo (Pan paniscus) and gorilla (Gorilla gorilla). The phylogenetic trees for these sequences indicate that most of the DRB1 allelic lineages predate the separation of the hominoid species studied, consistent with previous analysis of the coding sequences of these lineages. However, the intron sequence variation among alleles within DRB1 allelic lineages is very limited, consistent with the notion that the majority of the contemporary alleles have been generated within the last 250,000 years. The clustering of the DRB1 allelic lineages *08 and *12 with *03 supports a common ancestry for the DR8 and DR52 haplotypes. Similarly, the clustering of DRB1 allelic lineages *15 and *01 with the DRB3 locus is consistent with a common ancestry for the DR1 and DR51 haplotypes. Two cases of recombination around the second exon were observed: 1) the HLA-DRB6 locus appears to have been generated through a recombination between a DRB5 allele and an ancestral DRB6 allele, and 2) the gorilla sequence Gogo-DRB1 *03 appears to have been generated through a recombination between the DRB3 locus and an allele from the DRB1 *03 allelic lineage. The nucleotide substitution rate of DRB introns was estimated to 0.85-1.63 x 10(-9) per site per year, based on comparisons between the most closely related sequences from different hominoid species. This estimate is similar to the substitution rate for other intronic regions of the primate genome.