The basis for susceptibility to common autoimmune diseases is a complex interplay between multiple genetic and environmental risk factors. We have now entered a new generation of genetic study designs which has not only furthered our understanding of the individual mechanisms involved in the common human autoimmune diseases but also has pointed towards common pathways. In this review we focus on costimulatory mechanisms with the most convincing association results in large collections of patients and control subjects. These include the genes encoding cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4, CD58, CD40, inducible T-cell costimulator ligand, CD244, CD226, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) (ligand) superfamily member 4, TNF superfamily member 15, and programmed cell death 1. The unbiased genome-wide association scans suggest that indeed immune related genes underlie the pathogenesis of human autoimmune disease with common involvement of costimulatory pathways. The identification of allelic variants associated with disease risk followed by understanding their functional outcomes and affected pathways provides a rationale approach for drug design.