Zellweger syndrome (ZS), neonatal adrenoleukodystrophy (NALD), and infantile Refsum disease (IRD) are clinically overlapping syndromes, collectively called "peroxisome biogenesis disorders" (PBDs), with clinical features being most severe in ZS and least pronounced in IRD. Inheritance of these disorders is autosomal recessive. The peroxisome biogenesis disorders are genetically heterogeneous, having at least 12 different complementation groups (CGs). The gene affected in CG1 is PEX1. Approximately 65% of the patients with PBD harbor mutations in PEX1. In the present study, we used SSCP analysis to evaluate a series of patients belonging to CG1 for mutations in PEX1 and studied phenotype-genotype correlations. A complete lack of PEX1 protein was found to be associated with severe ZS; however, residual amounts of PEX1 protein were found in patients with the milder phenotypes, NALD and IRD. The majority of these latter patients carried at least one copy of the common G843D allele. When patient fibroblasts harboring this allele were grown at 30 degrees C, a two- to threefold increase in PEX1 protein levels was observed, associated with a recovery of peroxisomal function. This suggests that the G843D missense mutation results in a misfolded protein, which is more stable at lower temperatures. We conclude that the search for the factors and/or mechanisms that determine the stability of mutant PEX1 protein by high-throughput procedures will be a first step in the development of therapeutic strategies for patients with mild PBDs.