Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) is a potent immunomediator and proinflammatory cytokine that has been implicated in the pathogenesis of a large number of human diseases. The location of its gene within major histocompatibility complex and biological activities has raised the possibility that polymorphisms within this locus may contribute to the pathogenesis of wide range of autoimmune and infectious diseases. For example, a bi-allelic single nucleotide substitution of G (TNFA1 allele) with A (TNFA2 allele) polymorphism at -308 nucleotides upstream from the transcription initiation site in the TNF-alpha promoter is associated with elevated TNF-alpha levels and disease susceptibilities. However, it is still unclear whether TNF-alpha -308 polymorphism plays a part in the disease process, in particular whether it could affect transcription factor binding and in turn influence TNF-alpha transcription and synthesis. Several studies have suggested that TNFA2 allele is significantly linked with the high TNF-alpha-producing autoimmune MHC haplotype HLA-A1, B8, DR3, with elevated serum TNF-alpha levels and a more severe outcome in diseases. This review discusses the genetics of the TNF-alpha -308 polymorphism in selected major diseases and evaluates its common role in health and disease.