Kawasaki disease (KD; OMIM 611775) is an acute vasculitis syndrome which predominantly affects small- and medium-sized arteries of infants and children. Epidemiological data suggest that host genetics underlie the disease pathogenesis. Here we report that multiple variants in the caspase-3 gene (CASP3) that are in linkage disequilibrium confer susceptibility to KD in both Japanese and US subjects of European ancestry. We found that a G to A substitution of one commonly associated SNP located in the 5' untranslated region of CASP3 (rs72689236; P = 4.2 x 10(-8) in the Japanese and P = 3.7 x 10(-3) in the European Americans) abolished binding of nuclear factor of activated T cells to the DNA sequence surrounding the SNP. Our findings suggest that altered CASP3 expression in immune effecter cells influences susceptibility to KD.