Formation of the secondary palate is a complex step during craniofacial development. Disturbance of the events affecting palatogenesis results in a failure of the palate to close. As a consequence of deformity, an affected child will have problems with feeding, speech, hearing, dentition and psychological development. Cleft palate occurs frequently, affecting approximately 1 in 1,500 births; it is usually considered a sporadic occurrence resulting from an interaction between genetic and environmental factors. Although several susceptibility loci have been implicated, attempts to link genetic variation to functional effects have met with little success. Cleft palate with ankyloglossia (CPX; MIM 303400) is inherited as a semidominant X-linked disorder previously described in several large families of different ethnic origins and has been the subject of several studies that localized the causative gene to Xq21 (refs. 10-13). Here we show that CPX is caused by mutations in the gene encoding the recently described T-box transcription factor TBX22 (ref. 14). Members of the T-box gene family are known to play essential roles in early vertebrate development, especially in mesoderm specification. We demonstrate that TBX22 is a major gene determinant crucial to human palatogenesis. The spectrum of nonsense, splice-site, frameshift and missense mutations we have identified in this study indicates that the cleft phenotype results from a complete loss of TBX22 function.