With the mapping of the human genome having been completed, our ability to investigate and ideally better understand the genetic basis of rheumatic diseases is advancing at a rapid pace. Substantial evidence strongly favors a direct role for HLA-B27 in genetic susceptibility to ankylosing spondylitis and related spondyloarthropathies, although the underlying molecular basis has yet to be identified. HLA-B27 contributes only 16 to 50% of the total genetic risk for the disease, clearly indicating that other genes must be involved. However, no other putative disease genes have yet been absolutely proven. Potential genes include MHC (HLA class II, low molecular weight proteasome [LMP], transporter associated with antigen processing (TAP), tumor necrosis factor [TNF]-alpha, and major histocompatibility complex class I chain-related gene A (MICA), as well as non-MHC genes (IL-1RA, IL-6, IL-10, and CYP2D6). Genome-wide screens have identified other chromosomal areas of interest: 1p, 2q, 6p, 9q, 10q, 16q, and 19q. However, different studies have given conflicting results. HLA-B27 itself is a serologic specificity, which encompasses 25 different alleles that encode 23 different products (proteins): HLA-B*2701 to B*2723. These alleles may have evolved from the most widespread subtype, B*2705, and two of them, B*2706 in Southeast Asia and B*2709 in Sardinia, seem not to be associated with ankylosing spondylitis. The distinction between the disease associated and nonassociated subtypes may provide clues to the actual role of B27 in disease pathogenesis.