To determine the population-based frequency of a rare mutation (the 121ins2 mutation in the surfactant protein B gene), we developed high-throughput techniques to extract reliably and rapidly amplifiable DNA from Guthrie cards. Using a 3-mm punch from each of 10,044 Guthrie cards obtained from the Missouri Department of Health, we extracted DNA with deionized water by heating in the presence of 2% Chelex in a 96-well format. Average yield of DNA from each punch was 52.6 +/- 21 microg. Using 36mer primers and a 10-microL reaction volume, we amplified a 354-bp fragment of the surfactant protein B gene that contained the mutation and identified the mutation by its susceptibility to restriction enzyme digestion with SfuI. The procedure required 5 h per 96 samples but only 2 h of technician time. The amplification rate on the first attempt was 99.2%. Based on detection of eight individuals heterozygous for the mutation (confirmed by direct sequencing), we estimate the allele frequency to be 0.8/1000 individuals, an estimate not significantly different from previous estimates based on independent methods. High-throughput DNA extraction and amplification will permit establishment of DNA banks as well as efficient estimation of population-based genotype frequency for both rare and common genetic disorders.