Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex disease that is partly genetic in origin. Although an association of MS with specific human leukocyte antigen (HLA) types has been known for almost 30 years, the nature of this relationship has remained unclear. Furthermore, genetic resolution sufficient to implicate a specific gene in the HLA region has not been achieved. Many loci in the HLA region have been found to be significantly associated with MS, which is largely explained by the extended haplotype sharing and varying marker informativity of the region. We have determined 248 haplotypes of MS patients from the population of the northern Netherlands and 226 haplotypes of their relatives as controls using a set of 22 microsatellite markers covering the HLA region. The data were analyzed using standard association methods and a new statistical method, haplotype sharing statistics (HSS). Haplotype sharing statistics determines the extent of haplotype sharing for all pairs of haplotypes of patients and of controls and calculates the difference in mean haplotype sharing between patients and controls. Haplotype sharing was found to be significantly greater among patients than among controls in a region of 1.1 Mb between markers G511525 and TNFalpha. The involvement of this region is also supported by association analysis and the transmission/disequilibrium test (TDT). Within this region, HSS, which is largely independent of association and TDT, indicated the interval of 51 kb between G511525 and D6S1666 as that most likely to contain a susceptibility gene for MS. As DQB1 is the sole gene known in this interval at present, the results of our analysis suggest that this gene plays a role in the pathogenesis of MS.