Primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) is a group of heterogeneous disorders of unknown origin, usually inherited as an autosomal recessive trait. Its phenotype is characterized by axonemal abnormalities of respiratory cilia and sperm tails leading to bronchiectasis and sinusitis, which are sometimes associated with situs inversus (Kartagener syndrome) and male sterility. The main ciliary defect in PCD is an absence of dynein arms. We have isolated the first gene involved in PCD, using a candidate-gene approach developed on the basis of documented abnormalities of immotile strains of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, which carry axonemal ultrastructural defects reminiscent of PCD. Taking advantage of the evolutionary conservation of genes encoding axonemal proteins, we have isolated a human sequence (DNAI1) related to IC78, a C. reinhardtii gene encoding a dynein intermediate chain in which mutations are associated with the absence of outer dynein arms. DNAI1 is highly expressed in trachea and testis and is composed of 20 exons located at 9p13-p21. Two loss-of-function mutations of DNAI1 have been identified in a patient with PCD characterized by immotile respiratory cilia lacking outer dynein arms. In addition, we excluded linkage between this gene and similar PCD phenotypes in five other affected families, providing a clear demonstration of locus heterogeneity. These data reveal the critical role of DNAI1 in the development of human axonemal structures and open up new means for identification of additional genes involved in related developmental defects.