The HLA-B27 molecule is strongly associated with the spondyloarthropathies (SpA), a group of inflammatory conditions affecting the skeleton, the skin and several mucosae. The mechanism of this association remains unknown, largely because the HLA-B27 molecule displays normal function. A disease that closely mimicks SpA arises spontaneously in HLA-B27 transgenic rats. This disease is dependent on the presence of a normal bacterial flora and implicates the immune system. The presence of both CD4+ T cells and antigen presenting cells (APCs) expressing high levels of HLA-B27, seems of critical importance in its pathogenesis, whereas CD8+ T cells are dispensable. The T cell stimulatory function of APCs is disturbed by the HLA-B27 molecule. This disease could result from a failure of tolerance, related in part to high level of B27 expression in professional APCs and to the immune response to gut bacteria. In contrast, HLA-B27 transgenic mice have usually remained healthy. However, two types of inflammatory conditions afffecting the skeleton, which arise in mice of susceptible background after exposure to a conventional bacterial flora, are increased by an HLA-B27 transgene. The first is ANKENT, a spontaneous ankylosing enthesitis that affects ankle and / or tarsal joints of ageing mice; the second is a spontaneous arthritis of hindpaws developing in mice lacking endogenous mβ2m. As in rats, the absence of CD8+ T cells in the latter model, argues against the “arthritogenic peptide” hypothesis. In these mβ2m° mice, B27 free heavy chain could be implicated in the pathogenesis of arthritis by presenting extracellular peptides to CD4+ T cells.