The aim of this investigation was to compare the frequency of alleles at the HLA-C locus in patients with psoriatic arthritis to that in the disease free population and to relate the HLA genes to disease phenotype in psoriatic arthritis (PsA). Ninety-four consecutive patients seen in the (PsA) clinic between April and July 1996 and 100 disease-free controls had HLA typing performed by both serologic and molecular techniques. Patients' disease was assessed according to a standard protocol. Fisher's exact test was used to compare the frequency of HLA alleles in the patients and controls. HLA-C determined by PCR-SSP decreased the frequency of non-identified, that is, "blank" (or null) alleles to 6% in patients and controls. HLA-Cw*0602 was present in 32 patients and 18 controls: allele frequency of 17% in the patients versus 9% in the controls (p < 0.01). Amongst patients with psoriatic arthritis, those who carried the HLA-Cw*0602 allele had a significantly earlier mean age of onset of their psoriasis (p = 0.003). This study confirms that molecular DNA techniques improve detection of C-locus alleles. The HLA-Cw*0602 is increased amongst patients with psoriatic arthritis compared to controls. The HLA-Cw*0602 is associated with an earlier age of onset of psoriasis.