Dyskeratosis congenita is a rare inherited bone marrow-failure syndrome characterized by abnormal skin pigmentation, nail dystrophy, and mucosal leukoplakia. More than 80% of patients develop bone-marrow failure, and this is the major cause of premature death. The X-linked form of the disease (MIM 305000) has been shown to be caused by mutations in the DKC1 gene. The gene encodes a 514-amino-acid protein, dyskerin, that is homologous to Saccharomyces cerevisiae Cbf5p and rat Nap57 proteins. By analogy to the homologues in other species, dyskerin is predicted to be a nucleolar protein with a role in both the biogenesis of ribosomes and, in particular, the pseudouridylation of rRNA precursors. We have determined the genomic structure of the DKC1 gene; it consists of 15 exons spanning a region of 15 kb. This has enabled us to screen for mutations in the genomic DNA, by using SSCP analysis. Mutations were detected in 21 of 37 additional families with dyskeratosis congenita that were analyzed. These mutations consisted of 11 different single-nucleotide substitutions, which resulted in 10 missense mutations and 1 putative splicing mutation within an intron. The missense change A353V was observed in 10 different families and was shown to be a recurring de novo event. Two polymorphisms were also detected, one of which resulted in the insertion of an additional lysine in the carboxy-terminal polylysine domain. It is apparent that X-linked dyskeratosis congenita is predominantly caused by missense mutations; the precise effect on the function of dyskerin remains to be determined.