The 8.1 ancestral haplotype (AH) is a common Caucasoid haplotype carried by most people who type for HLA-B8,DR3. It seems unique in its association with a wide range of immunopathologic diseases. Healthy subjects bearing this haplotype demonstrate several alterations of immune response. This article will focus on the identification of the mechanism(s) of disease susceptibility of 8.1 AH. In 13 carriers of 8.1 AH, and 43 negative patients, enzyme immune assays serum levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, soluble endothelial leukocyte adhesion molecule-1 (sELAM-1), cortisol, and interleukin(IL)-10 were determined. In addition, quantification of cytokine produced in vitro after mitogen stimulation was studied, and all subjects were genotyped for alleles at -592, -819, and -1082 nucleotides of IL-10 gene 5' flanking region, which is known to control IL-10 production. Results revealed that 8.1 AH is associated with a high in vivo and in vitro production of TNF-alpha, which in turn seems responsible for increased serum levels of sELAM-1, cortisol, and IL-10. On the contrary, in vitro production of IL-10 is not increased in these patients and there are no differences in allele promoter frequencies between the two groups that might explain the differences in IL-10 serum values. Thus, serum values seem to be the result of the effects of increased serum levels of TNF-alpha and cortisol. In conclusion, the increased spontaneous release of TNF-alpha, which modifies a certain number of immunologic parameters, may be the most characterizing feature of 8.1 AH. The consequent modification of the immunologic scenario might be involved in the predisposition to the impressive number of diseases and the changes in immune response observed in the patients studied.