The melanocortin-4 receptor gene (MC4-R) has been implicated in weight regulation. Recently, two independent groups reported frameshift mutations associated with a dominant form of obesity (1, 2). We screened the coding region of the MC4-R in 306 extremely obese children and adolescents (mean body mass index: BMI 34.4 +/- 6.6 kg/m2), 25 healthy underweight students (mean BMI 17.1 +/- 0.8 kg/m2), 52 normal weight individuals (mean BMI 22.0 +/- 1.0 kg/m2), 51 inpatients with anorexia nervosa (AN, DSM IV criteria, mean BMI 14.3 +/- 1.5 kg/m2) and 27 patients with bulimia nervosa (BN, DSM IV criteria, mean BMI 21.7 +/- 5.8 kg/m2) by single strand conformation polymorphism analysis (SSCP). Several mutations were identified, including the frameshift mutation described (1). The mutations were as follows: a) The deletion of 4 bp (delta of CTCT at codon 211) results in a frameshift, thus rendering a truncated protein. This mutation has been assumed to be associated with dominantly-inherited morbid obesity in humans (1). Both the index patient (BMI 42.06 kg/m2, height 171 cm, age 19.6 years) and her mother (BMI 37.55 kg/m2, height 164 cm, age 42.5 years) were heterozygous for the deletion. b) A nonsense mutation at position 35 of the MC4-R was detected in two obese probands (BMI 31.29 kg/m2 and BMI 45.91 kg/m2). This mutation leads to a truncated protein that encompasses the N-terminal extracellular domain. Both carriers additionally showed (c) a missense mutation (Asp-37-Val). In both of these cases Tyr-35-Stop and Asp-37-Val were maternally transmitted, thus these variations form a haplotype. d) e) A male obese proband harbored two missense mutations (Ser-30-Phe, Gly-252-Ser). f)-i) Four different missense mutations (Pro-78-Leu, Thr-112-Met, Arg-165-Trp, Ile-317-Thr) were detected in four different male probands, respectively. All of these mutations (a to i) were found solely in extremely obese individuals whose BMIs were all above the 99th percentile. j) A silent mutation (C-579-T, Val-193-Val) was detected in a male underweight individual. k) A previously described polymorphism (Val-103-Ile; 3) was detected with similar frequencies in all different study groups. 1) We identified a novel polymorphism (Ile-251-Leu) with similar allele frequencies in all groups under study. In conclusion, our data indicate that mutations in the MC4-R are not uncommon. Whereas our data support the evidence for dominantly inherited obesity as revealed by the three obese probands with haplo-insufficiency, the functional significance of the missense mutations remains to be determined.