The progress of human genome sequencing is driving genetic approaches to define gene function. Strategies such as gene traps and chemical mutagenesis will soon generate a large mutant mouse resource. Point mutations induced by N -ethyl- N -nitrosourea (ENU) provide a unique mutant resource because they: (i) reflect the consequences of single gene change independent of position effects; (ii) provide a fine-structure dissection of protein function; (iii) display a range of mutant effects from complete or partial loss of function to exaggerated function; and (iv) discover gene functions in an unbiased manner. Phenotype-driven ENU screens in the mouse are emphasizing relevance to human clinical disease by targeting cardiology, physiology, neurology, immunity, hematopoiesis and mammalian development. Such approaches are extremely powerful in understanding complex human diseases and traits: the base-pair changes may accurately model base changes found in human diseases, and subtle mutant alleles in a standard genetic background provide the ability to analyze the consequences of compound genotypes. Ongoing mouse ENU mutagenesis experiments are generating a treasure trove of new mutations to allow an in-depth study of a single gene, a chromosomal region or a biological system.