Carney complex (CNC) is an autosomal dominant multiple neoplasia syndrome, which has been linked to loci on 2p16 and 17q22-24. We recently reported that PRKAR1A, which codes for the type 1A regulatory subunit of protein kinase A (PKA), is a tumor suppressor gene on chromosome 17 that is mutated in some CNC families. To evaluate the spectrum of PRKAR1A mutations, we identified its genomic structure and screened for mutations in 54 CNC kindreds (34 families and 20 patients with sporadic disease). Fourteen families were informative for linkage analysis: four of four families that mapped to 17q had PRKAR1A mutations, whereas there were no mutations found in seven families exhibiting at least one recombination with 17q. In six of the latter, CNC mapped to 2p16. PRKAR1A mutations were also found in 12 of 20 non-informative families and 7 of 20 sporadic cases. Altogether, 15 distinct PRKAR1A mutations were identified in 22 of 54 kindreds (40.7%). In 14 mutations, the sequence change was predicted to lead to a premature stop codon; one altered the initiator ATG codon. Mutant mRNAs containing a premature stop codon were unstable, as a result of nonsense-mediated mRNA decay. Accordingly, the predicted truncated PRKAR1A protein products were absent in these cells. We conclude that (i) genetic heterogeneity exists in CNC; and (ii) all of the CNC alleles on 17q are functionally null mutations of PRKAR1A. CNC is the first human disease recognized to be caused by mutations of the PKA holoenzyme, a critical component of cellular signaling.