In a controlled study of the 499 available first degree relatives of 79 consecutive HLA-B27 positive patients with ankylosing spondylitis and 69 HLA-B27 positive healthy blood donors, 19 cases of ankylosing spondylitis were found: 16 (15 B27 positive) among the 282 relatives of the patients with ankylosing spondylitis, and 3 (1 B27 positive, 1 B27 negative, 1 unknown) among the 217 relatives of healthy donors (chi c2 = 5.11; P less than 0.025). However, if all cases of possible spondylarthritis are included, 48 cases of ankylosing spondylitis were found: 37 of 282 relatives of patients with ankylosing spondylitis and 11 of 217 relatives of healthy donors (chi c2 = 8.29; P less than 0.01). Assuming that 50% of relatives of B27 positive individuals carry this antigen, 15 of 142 (10.6%) B27 positive relatives of patients and 2 of 108 (1.9%) B27 positive relatives of healthy subjects (chi c2 = 5.91; P less than 0.025) have ankylosing spondylitis. The relative risk of spondylarthropathy for B27 positive relatives of B27 positive patients compared with relatives of B27 positive healthy subjects is 5.6. Assuming all subjects were evaluated in a similar manner, analysis of these data suggests genetic differences between B27 positive diseased individuals and B27 positive healthy subjects.