Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia type 2 (ARVD2, OMIM 600996) is an autosomal dominant cardiomyopathy, characterized by partial degeneration of the myocardium of the right ventricle, electrical instability and sudden death. The disease locus was mapped to chromosome 1q42--q43. We report here on the physical mapping of the critical ARVD2 region, exclusion of two candidate genes (actinin 2 and nidogen), elucidation of the genomic structure of the cardiac ryanodine receptor gene (RYR2) and identification of RYR2 mutations in four independent families. In myocardial cells, the RyR2 protein, activated by Ca(2+), induces the release of calcium from the sarcoplasmic reticulum into the cytosol. RyR2 is the cardiac counterpart of RyR1, the skeletal muscle ryanodine receptor, involved in malignant hyperthermia (MH) susceptibility and in central core disease (CCD). The RyR2 mutations detected in the present study occurred in two highly conserved regions, strictly corresponding to those where mutations causing MH or CCD are clustered in the RYR1 gene. The detection of RyR2 mutations causing ARVD2, reported in this paper, opens the way to pre-symptomatic detection of carriers of the disease in childhood, thus enabling early monitoring and treatment.