Mutations in coding exons or exon 10 5'-splice-site of the gene for microtubule-associated protein tau can cause chromosome 17-linked frontotemporal dementia and parkinsonism (FTDP-17). We sequenced the 11 coding exons plus exon-intron boundaries of the tau gene in 15 cases of progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), and found no mutations in coding exons or exon ten 5'-splice sites. These data indicate that typical PSP is not associated with tau gene mutations similar to those causing FTDP-17. We also observed a +39deltaG base change in the intron following exon 4 in three out of 69 PSP cases (all three Italians), whereas it was not found in 150 Dutch controls and once in 112 Italian controls. The +39deltaG variant arose in the context of the PSP-associated tau H1 haplotype. Although a pathogenic role cannot be entirely excluded, +39deltaG is likely to be a rare polymorphism that may be in linkage disequilibrium with a biologically relevant locus inside or near to the tau gene.