We have previously reported an autosomal recessive form of congenital muscular dystrophy, characterized by proximal girdle weakness, generalized muscle hypertrophy, rigidity of the spine, and contractures of the tendo Achilles, in a consanguineous family from the United Arab Emirates. Early respiratory failure resulting from severe diaphragmatic involvement was present. Intellect and the results of brain imaging were normal. Serum creatine kinase levels were grossly elevated, and muscle-biopsy samples showed dystrophic changes. The expression of the laminin-alpha2 chain of merosin was reduced on several fibers, but linkage analysis excluded the LAMA2 locus on chromosome 6q22-23. Here, we report the results of genomewide linkage analysis of this family, by use of homozygosity mapping. In all four affected children, an identical homozygous region was identified on chromosome 1q42, spanning 6-15 cM between flanking markers D1S2860 and D1S2800. We have identified a second German family with two affected children having similar clinical and histopathological features; they are consistent with linkage to the same locus. The cumulative LOD score was 3.57 (straight theta=.00) at marker D1S213. This represents a novel locus for congenital muscular dystrophy. We suggest calling this disorder "CMD1B." The expression of three functional candidate genes in the CMD1B critical region was investigated, and no detectable changes in their level of expression were observed. The secondary reduction in laminin-alpha2 chain in these families suggests that the primary genetic defect resides in a gene coding for a protein involved in basal lamina assembly.