We have reviewed the literature on the association of HLA class II with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Strong linkage disequilibrium among DQB1, DQA1 and DRB1 alleles makes it difficult to evaluate the individual contribution of each locus. Nonetheless, there is a strong case for the role of DQB1*03 and *04 combined with DQA1*03 in susceptibility to severe RA while DQB1*0501 combined with DQA1*0101 and *0104 weakly predisposes to a mild form of RA. However, it is also clear that DRB1*0401 has a particular role in predisposition to the most severe form of the disease while other DRB1 alleles might provide protection. We would like to propose that in RA, as in type I diabetes, both DQ and DR loci contribute to predisposition to the disease.