Sarcoidosis is a chronic granulomatous disorder, which is characterized by the accumulation of activated CD4+ T lymphocytes (T cells) at disease sites. There is up-regulation of cell surface expression of MHC molecules in sarcoidosis, and it has been suggested that specific MHC class II alleles are associated with the disease. A study of chronic beryllium disease (CBD), a granulomatous disorder which is pathologically similar to sarcoidosis, has identified an association between this disease and the presence of a glutamine residue at position 69 (Glu 69+) of the B1 chain of the HLA-DPB molecule. A further study also suggested the importance of Glu at position 55 of the same chain. The aims of the present study were to attempt to define MHC class II alleles associated with sarcoidosis by comparison of their frequency in two groups of subjects and to compare the frequency of HLA-DPB1 Glu 69+/- and Glu 55+/-alleles in the same subjects. Forty-one subjects with sarcoidosis and 76 normal subjects were studied. The polymorphic regions of the class II MHC were identified by PCR in association with sequence-specific oligonucleotide probes. There were no significant differences in the phenotype frequencies of MHC class II or Glu 55+ alleles between the two groups of subjects. However, there was a significant increase (P = 0.02) in the frequency of HLA-DPB1* Glu 69+ alleles compared with the control population. We therefore suggest that the presence of a Glu residue at position 69 on the DPB1 chain may play an important role in antigen presentation and recognition in chronic granulomatous diseases.