Single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) can make an important contribution to our understanding of genetic backgrounds that may influence medical conditions and ethnic diversity. We undertook a systematic survey of genomic DNA for SNPs located not only in coding sequences but also in non-coding regions (e.g., introns and 5' flanking regions) of selected genes. Using DNA samples from 48 Japanese patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as templates, we surveyed 41 genes that represent candidates for RA, screening a total of 104 kb of DNA (30 kb of coding sequences and 74 kb of non-coding DNA). Within this 104 kb of genomic sequences we identified 163 polymorphisms (1 per 638 bases on average), of which 142 were single-nucleotide substitutions and the remainder, insertions or deletions. Of the coding SNPs, 52% were non-synonymous substitutions, and non-conservative amino acid changes were observed in a quarter of those. Sixty-nine polymorphisms showed high frequencies for minor alleles (more than 15%) and 20 revealed low frequencies (<5%). Our results indicated a greater average distance between SNPs than others have reported, but this disparity may reflect the type of genes surveyed and/or the relative ethnic homogeneity of our test population.