The presence of certain vitamin D receptor (VDR) genotypes has been associated with low bone mineral density (BMD) in elderly populations as well as with accelerated bone loss in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In the present study, VDR genotypes from 120 Spanish patients with RA were investigated. Three VDR gene polymorphisms (BsmI, ApaI and TaqI) were investigated using polymerase chain reaction followed by enzymatic digestion. The distributions of VDR allelic frequencies were similar in patients and controls and therefore no influence of VDR polymorphisms on rheumatoid arthritis susceptibility could be demonstrated. However, in an analysis of the clinical features of the different VDR-related genetic subgroups, the BB/tt genotype, defined by the BsmI and TaqI restriction site polymorphisms, was identified to be weakly associated with an early onset RA in female patients. This VDR genotype has been associated with a low BMD level in various studies. When patients were stratified according to the presence of the shared HLA epitope SE, it was found that SE + female patients bearing the BB/tt genotype showed the earliest disease onset. The mechanisms by which the VDR polymorphism is associated with RA is unknown, but they could be related to the immunoregulatory properties of vitamin D.