Clinical cytogenetic laboratories frequently identify an apparent duplication of proximal 15q that does not involve probes within the PWS/AS critical region and is not associated with any consistent phenotype. Previous mapping data placed several pseudogenes, NF1, IgH D/V, and GABRA5 in the pericentromeric region of proximal 15q. Recent studies have shown that these pseudogene sequences have increased copy numbers in subjects with apparent duplications of proximal 15q. To determine the extent of variation in a control population, we analysed NF1 and IgH D pseudogene copy number in interphase nuclei from 20 cytogenetically normal subjects by FISH. Both loci are polymorphic in controls, ranging from 1-4 signals for NF1 and 1-3 signals for IgH D. Eight subjects with apparent duplications, examined by the same method, showed significantly increased NF1 copy number (5-10 signals). IgH D copy number was also increased in 6/8 of these patients (4-9 signals). We identified a fourth pseudogene, BCL8A, which maps to the pericentromeric region and is coamplified along with the NF1 sequences. Interphase FISH ordering experiments show that IgH D lies closest to the centromere, while BCL8A is the most distal locus in this pseudogene array; the total size of the amplicon is estimated at approximately 1 Mb. The duplicated chromosome was inherited from either sex parent, indicating no parent of origin effect, and no consistent phenotype was present. FISH analysis with one or more of these probes is therefore useful in discriminating polymorphic amplification of proximal pseudogene sequences from clinically significant duplications of 15q.