Susceptibility to multiple sclerosis (MS) is clearly associated with human leukocyte antigen (HLA)DRB1*1501, but some studies show associations with HLA-B7 and -B18. These are often co-expressed with DRB1*1501 in the ancestral haplotypes (AH) denoted 7.1 (HLA-A3, B7, tumor necrosis factor [TNF]a11b4, DRB1*1501) and 18.1 (HLA-A25, B18, TNFa10b4, DRB1*1501). Here we present a systematic study of 218 patients and 274 controls typed at all standard class II and TNF microsatellite loci, and a novel non-synonymous polymorphism in the central major histocompatibility complex gene, inhibitor of kappa B-like protein (IKBL). The C allele at IKBL+738 is only found on the 7.1 haplotype. HLA-DRB1*1501 was associated with disease, as expected. When subjects expressing DRB1*1501 were analyzed separately, TNFa11b4 and IKBL+738C were less common in the patients and, hence, mark an allele that mediates resistance which lies telomeric of IE;DL. TNFa10b4 and TNFa1b5 were more common in DRB1*1501 patients than in controls. These alleles have been associated with the 18.1 and 18.2 AH, respectively. Since no component of these haplotypes was an independent risk factor in this study, ir appears likely that: a gene linked to TNFa10b4 and TNFa1b5 modifies the effect of the susceptibility locus marked by HLA-DRB1*1501. Potential candidate genes telomeric of che TNF cluster are discussed. (C) American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics, 1999. Published by Elsevier Science Inc.