The tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha gene lies within the class III region of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), telomeric to the class II and centromeric to the class I region. We have recently described the first polymorphism within the human TNF-alpha locus. This is biallelic and lies within the promoter region. Frequency analysis of the TNF-alpha polymorphism, using the polymerase chain reaction and single-stranded conformational polymorphism, in HLA-typed individuals, reveals a very strong association between the uncommon TNF allele and HLA A1, B8, and DR3 alleles. This is the first association between TNF-alpha and other MHC alleles and raises the possibility that the uncommon TNF-alpha allele may contribute to the many autoimmune associations of the A1,B8,DR3 haplotype.

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