HLA-B27 is strongly associated to ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and represents a family of eleven B27 alleles (B*2701-11). Our aim was to analyze the distribution of B27 subtypes by PCR/SSOP and genomic sequencing in a large group of populations (n = 17). 711 B27-positive samples from Caucasoid, Asian, African, Amerindian and Polynesian populations were selected to ascertain transracial gene mapping of the B27 subtypes. 476 of these were AS patients, chosen to investigate the contribution of B27 alleles to AS susceptibility. Some significant new findings have arisen from this study: 1) B*2705 was the predominant subtype in circumpolar and subarctic areas. B*2702 was found to be practically restricted to Caucasian populations, showing a higher frequency in Middle-East (Jews) and North Africa (Arabs/Berbers) groups. 2) B*2703 appears associated with AS in Western Africans. This is of remarkable interest since it was suggested that B*2703 would be negatively disease-associated. 3) Although B*2706 appears negatively associated with AS in Thais, we identified two patients from northern China carrying it. This may be a reflection of a disease heterogeneity and could indicate that more than one pathogenic agent can be involved in AS. B*2709 has been recently described as negatively associated with AS in Sardinians. The molecular changes His114Asp (B*2706) and Asp116His (B*2709) could modify the genetic susceptibility to AS.