Objective Rheumatoid factor (RF) is a well-established diagnostic and prognostic biomarker in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, â20% of RA patients are negative for this anti-IgG antibody. To date, only variation at the HLA-DRB1 gene has been associated with the presence of RF. This study was undertaken to identify additional genetic variants associated with RF positivity. Methods A genome-wide association study (GWAS) for RF positivity was performed using an Illumina Quad610 genotyping platform. A total of 937 RF-positive and 323 RF-negative RA patients were genotyped for >550,000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Association testing was performed using an allelic chi-square test implemented in Plink software. An independent cohort of 472 RF-positive and 190 RF-negative RA patients was used to validate the most significant findings. Results In the discovery stage, a SNP in the IRX1 locus on chromosome 5p15.3 (SNP rs1502644) showed a genome-wide significant association with RF positivity (P = 4.13 × 10-8, odds ratio [OR] 0.37 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) 0.26-0.53]). In the validation stage, the association of IRX1 with RF was replicated in an independent group of RA patients (P = 0.034, OR 0.58 [95% CI 0.35-0.97] and combined P = 1.14 × 10-8, OR 0.43 [95% CI 0.32-0.58]). Conclusion To our knowledge, this is the first GWAS of RF positivity in RA. Variation at the IRX1 locus on chromosome 5p15.3 is associated with the presence of RF. Our findings indicate that IRX1 and HLA-DRB1 are the strongest genetic factors for RF production in RA.