Williams-Beuren syndrome is a segmental aneusomy syndrome with manifestations affecting the vascular, connective tissue, endocrine and central nervous systems. Most patients show a similar heterozygous approximately 1.5 Mb deletion at 7q11.23 that contains a number of reported genes. Deletion mapping in the few atypical patients with smaller deletions suggested that additive effects of haploinsufficiency for two or more genes might be necessary for the phenotype. Vascular stenoses are caused by haploinsufficiency at the elastin gene, while the genes responsible for the cognitive deficits are likely located at the telomeric edge of the deletion, including CYLN2 and GTF2I. Large region-specific segmental duplications predispose to misalignment and inter- or intrachromosomal unequal crossing-over causing the deletions. Atypical alleles at 7q11.23 such as inversions and deletions/insertions of large repeats, also generated through aberrant recombination between the local segmental duplications, are found in approximately 35% of transmitting parents. Genomic instability at 7q11.23 is directly related to the genomic structure of the region.