Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a common, highly heritable arthropathy, the pathogenesis of which is poorly understood. The mechanism by which the main gene for the disease, HLA-B27, leads to AS is unknown. Genetic and genomic studies have demonstrated involvement of the interleukin-23 (IL-23) signaling pathway in AS, a finding which has stimulated much new research into the disease and has led to therapeutic trials. Several other genes and genetic regions, including further major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and non-MHC loci, have been shown to be involved in the disease, but it is not clear yet how they actually induce the condition. These findings have shown that there is a strong genetic overlap between AS and Crohn's disease in particular, although there are also major differences in the genes involved in the two conditions, presumably explaining their different presentations. Genomic and proteomic studies are in an early phase but have potential both as diagnostic/prognostic tools and as a further hypothesis-free tool to investigate AS pathogenesis. Given the slow progress in studying the mechanism of association of HLA-B27 with AS, these may prove to be more fruitful approaches to investigating the pathogenesis of the disease.