Cytochrome P450 (CYP) 2C9 is the principal enzyme responsible for the metabolism of numerous clinically important drugs. Two polymorphic alleles CYP2C9*2 and CYP2C9*3 have been documented which affect the metabolism and clinical toxicity of drugs such as phenytoin, warfarin, glipizide, and tolbutamide. The present study reports the first example of a null polymorphism in CYP2C9. This mutation dramatically affects the half-life and clinical toxicity of phenytoin. The study subject was a female African-American presented to the emergency department with phenytoin toxicity evidenced by mental confusion, slurred speech, memory loss and the inability to stand. She exhibited extremely poor clearance of phenytoin with an elimination half-life of approximately 13 days. Genotyping studies demonstrated that the patient did not possess any known variant CYP2C9 alleles. Phenytoin is metabolized to a minor extent by the polymorphic CYP2C19, but this individual did not possess any variant CYP2C19 alleles. Sequencing studies revealed that the individual was homozygous for a new CYP2C9 allele (CYP2C9*6) with the deletion of an adenine at base pair 818 of the cDNA. The clearance of phenytoin in this individual is estimated to be approximately 17% of that observed in normal patients. The frequency of this allele was 0.6% (95% confidence limits of 0.1 to 3.5%) in 79 African-Americans and 0% (95% confidence limits of 0 to 1.1%) in 172 Caucasians. The study also demonstrates the severe clinical consequences to patients with a null mutation in CYP2C9 after treatment with normal doses of phenytoin.