The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) acts as a marker for self during T-cell ontogeny and is associated with the pathogenesis of many autoimmune diseases. Recent investigations have shown about 30% of patients with chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU) have IgG autoantibodies against the high-affinity IgE receptor, FcεRI, or IgE. A link between MHC class II alleles and CIU has not been reported previously. DNA was extracted from blood of 100 Caucasian patients with CIU, and the MHC class II type determined using the polymerase chain reaction with sequence-specific primers, testing for DRB and DQB1 alleles. The frequency of alleles in CIU patients was compared with that found in 603 controls. Further human leucocyte antigen (HLA) typing on patient subsets, classified by the patients' responses to intradermal injection of autologous serum and their serum-induced histamine release from basophil leucocytes of healthy donors, was undertaken. HLA DRB1*04 (DR4) and its associated allele, DQB1*0302 (DQ8), are raised in CIU patients compared with a control population (P = 2 × 10−5 and P = 2 × 10−4, respectively). HLA DRB1*15 (DR15) and its associated allele, DQB1*06 (DQ6), are significantly less frequently associated with CIU. The HLA DRB1*04 association is particularly strong (corrected P = 3.6 × 10−6) for patients whose serum has in vivo and in vitro histamine-releasing activity. HLA class II typing is consistent with the concept that CIU is a heterogeneous disease, and supports an autoimmune pathogenesis in a subset of patients.