We have identified a splice-site mutation (IVS6+1G-->T) in the RB1 gene, in two unrelated families with incomplete-penetrance retinoblastoma. Analysis of RNA from white blood cells showed that this mutation causes skipping of exon 6. Although this deletion results in a frameshift, most carriers of the mutation did not develop retinoblastoma. Interestingly, the relative abundance of the resultant nonsense messenger RNA varies between members of the same family and is either similar to or considerably lower than the transcript level of the normal allele. Moreover, variation of relative transcript levels is associated with both the sex of the parent that transmitted the mutant allele and phenotypic expression: All eight carriers with similar abundance of nonsense and normal transcript have received the mutant allele from their mother, and only one of them has developed retinoblastoma; by contrast, all eight carriers with reduced abundance of the nonsense transcript have received the mutant allele from their father, and all but two them have retinoblastoma. After treatment with cycloheximide, the relative abundance of transcripts from paternally inherited mutant alleles was partly restored, thus indicating that posttranscriptional mechanisms, rather than transcriptional silencing, are responsible for low levels of mutant messenger RNA. Our data suggest that a specific RB1 mutation can be associated with differential penetrance, on the basis of the sex of the transmitting parent.