The 620W allelic variant of the intracellular tyrosine phosphatase, PTPN22, is associated with a number of different autoimmune disorders, and this provides direct evidence for common mechanisms underlying many of these diseases. The associated allele appears to influence thresholds for T cell receptor signaling, and a variety of disease models involving both central and peripheral tolerance can be proposed. However, given the fact that PTPN22 is expressed in a variety of immunologically relevant cell types, the precise mechanisms for these associations remain unclear. In general, the PTPN22 620W allele appears to play a role in autoimmune disorders that have a prominent humoral component, suggesting that further investigation of PTPN22 activity in B cells will be useful. From a genetic perspective, the data highlights the genetic heterogeneity underlying autoimmunity in different ethnic groups.