Dyggve-Melchior-Clausen syndrome (DMC) is a rare autosomal-recessive disorder, the gene for which maps to chromosome 18q21.1. DMC is characterized by the association of a spondylo-epi-metaphyseal dysplasia and mental retardation. Electron microscopic study of cutaneous cells of an affected child showed dilated rough endoplasmic reticulum, enlarged and aberrant vacuoles and numerous vesicles. As the etiology of the disorder is unknown, we have used a positional cloning strategy to identify the DMC gene. We detected seven deleterious mutations within a gene predicted from a human transcript (FLJ20071) in 10 DMC families. The mutations were nonsense mutations (R194X, R204X, L219X, Q483X), splice site or frameshift mutations (K626N+92aa to stop). The DMC gene transcript is widely distributed but appears abundant in chondrocytes and fetal brain. The predicted protein product of the DMC gene yields little insight into its likely function, showing no significant homology to any known protein family. However, the carboxy terminal end comprises a cluster of dileucine motifs, highly conserved across species. We conclude that DMC syndrome is consequent upon loss of function of a gene that we propose to name Dymeclin, which may have a role in process of intracellular digestion of proteins.