A central aspect of the pathogenesis of gout is elevated urate concentrations, which lead to the formation of monosodium urate crystals. The clinical features of gout result from an individual's immune response to these deposited crystals. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have confirmed the importance of urate excretion in the control of serum urate levels and the risk of gout and have identified the kidneys, the gut and the liver as sites of urate regulation. The genetic contribution to the progression from hyperuricaemia to gout remains relatively poorly understood, although genes encoding proteins that are involved in the NLRP3 (NOD-, LRR- and pyrin domain-containing 3) inflammasome pathway play a part. Genome-wide and targeted sequencing is beginning to identify uncommon population-specific variants that are associated with urate levels and gout. Mendelian randomization studies using urate-associated genetic variants as unconfounded surrogates for lifelong urate exposure have not supported claims that urate is causal for metabolic conditions that are comorbidities of hyperuricaemia and gout. Genetic studies have also identified genetic variants that predict responsiveness to therapies (for example, urate-lowering drugs) for treatment of hyperuricaemia. Future research should focus on large GWAS (that include asymptomatic hyperuricaemic individuals) and on increasing the use of whole-genome sequencing data to identify uncommon genetic variants with increased penetrance that might provide opportunities for clinical translation.