The entire 3.6-MbpDNA sequence of a human major histocompatibility complex derived from a composite of DNA clones from different haplotypes, was completed in 1999, primarily through the work of four main groups. At that time, it was the longest contiguous human DNA sequence to have been determined. The sequence is of extremely high quality and accuracy. In this review, we discuss how the DNA sequence has facilitated our understanding of the biology and genetics of the major histocompatibility complex. We suggest some ways in which the sequence may be exploited in the future to explore the relationship between the extraordinary polymorphism of the region and its association with both autoimmune and infectious diseases.