Niemann-Pick type II disease is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by a defect in intracellular trafficking of sterols. We have determined the intron/exon boundaries of eight exons from the conserved 3' portion of NPC1, the gene associated with most cases of the disease. SSCP analyses were designed for these exons and were used to identify the majority of mutations in 13 apparently unrelated families. Thirteen mutations were found, accounting for 19 of the 26 alleles. These mutations included eight different missense mutations (including one reported by Greer et al. ), one 4-bp and two 2-bp deletions that generate premature stop codons, and two intronic mutations that are predicted to alter splicing. Two of the missense mutations were present in predicted transmembrane (TM) domains. Clustering of these and other reported NPC1 mutations in the carboxy-terminal third of the protein indicates that screening of these exons, by means of the SSCP analyses reported here, will detect most mutations. The carboxy-terminal half of the Npc1 protein shares amino acid similarity with the TM domains of the morphogen receptor Patched, with the largest stretch of unrelated sequence lying between two putative TM spans. Alignment of this portion of the human Npc1 protein sequence with Npc1-related sequences from mouse, yeast, nematode, and a plant, Arabidopsis, revealed conserved cysteine residues that may coordinate the structure of this domain. That 7 of a total of 13 NPC1 missense mutations are concentrated in this single Npc1-specific domain suggests that integrity of this region is particularly critical for normal functioning of the protein.