CASPASE-12 (CASP12) has a downregulatory function during infection and thus may protect against inflammatory disease. We investigated the distribution of CASP12 alleles (#rs497116) in African-Americans (AA) with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). CASP12 alleles were genotyped in 953 RA patients and 342 controls. Statistical analyses comparing genotype groups were performed using Kruskal-Wallis non-parametric ANOVA with Mann-Whitney U tests and chi-square tests. There was no significant difference in the overall distribution of CASP12 genotypes within AA with RA, but CASP12 homozygous patients had lower baseline joint-narrowing scores. CASP12 homozygosity appears to be a subtle protective factor for some aspects of RA in AA patients. © 2014 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.