Data from 59 patients with early rheumatoid arthritis were analysed to determine the predictive value of the possession of HLA-DR4 for disease severity and functional outcome at 3 years after disease onset. The previously reported association of that antigen with seropositive disease was confirmed. Conversely, however, there was no evidence that functional outcome was worse in the HLA-DR4 positive group as measured by the Stanford Health Assessment Questionnaire. The mean articular index was lower in the HLA-DR4 group which also had a smaller proportion with limited wrist extension. In addition, both patient and physicians' global assessment of disease status were better in the HLA-DR4 group. It is concluded that HLA-DR4 is not a useful predictor of poor outcome at 3 years.