The human HLA-DR3 haplotype consists of two functional genes (DRB1*03 and DRB3*01) and one pseudogene (DRB2), arranged in the order DRB1... DRB2... DRB3 on the chromosome. To shed light on the origin of the haplotype, we sequenced 1480 nucleotides of the HLA-DRB2 gene and aong stretches of two other genes, Gogo-DRB2 from a gorilla, "Sylvia" and Patr-DRB2 from a chimpanzee, "Hugo". All three sequences (HLA-DRB2, Gogo-DRB2, Patr-DRB2) are pseudogenes. The HLA-DRB2 and Gogo-DRB2 pseudogenes lack exon 2 and contain a twenty-nucleotide deletion in exon 3, which destroys the correct translational reading frame and obliterates the highly conserved cysteine residue at position 173. The Patr-DRB2 pseudogene lacks exons 1 and 2; it does not contain the twenty-nucleotide deletion, but does contain a characteristic duplication of that part of exon 6 which codes for the last four amino acid residues of the cytoplasmic region. When the nucleotide sequences of these three genes are compared to those of all other known DRB genes, the HLA-DRB2 is seen as most closely related to Gogo-DRB2, indicating orthologous relationship between the two sequences. The Patr-DRB2 gene is more distantly related to these two DRB2 genes and whether it is orthologous to them is uncertain. The three genes are in turn most closely related to HLA-DRBVI (the pseudogene of the DR2 haplotype) and Patr-DRB6 (another pseudogene of the Hugo haplotype), followed by HLA-DRB4 (the functional but nonpolymorphic gene of the DR4 haplotype). These relationships suggest that these six genes evolved from a common ancestor which existed before the separation of the human, gorilla, and chimpanzee lineages. The DRB2 and DRB6 have apparently been pseudogenes for at least six million years (myr). In the human and the gorilla haplotype, the DRB2 pseudogene is flanked on each side by what appear to be related genes. Apparently, the DR3 haplotype has existed in its present form for more than six myr. © 1992 Springer-Verlag.