© 2014 Aslibekyan et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. Following the publication of the ENCODE project results, there has been increasing interest in investigating different areas of the chromosome and evaluating the relative contribution of each area to expressed phenotypes. This study aims to evaluate the contribution of variants, classified by minor allele frequency and gene annotation, to the observed interindividual differences. In this study, we fitted Bayesian linear regression models to data from Genetic Analysis Workshop 18 (n = 395) to estimate the variance of standardized and log-transformed systolic blood pressure that can be explained by subsets of genetic markers. Rare and very rare variants explained an overall higher proportion of the variance, as did markers located within a gene rather than flanking regions. The proportion of variance explained by rare and very rare variants decreased when we controlled for the number of markers, suggesting that the number of contributing rare alleles plays an important role in the genetic architecture of chronic disease traits. Our findings lend support to the «common disease, rare variant» hypothesis for systolic blood pressure and highlight allele frequency and functional annotation of a polymorphism as potentially crucial considerations in whole genome study designs.