A proposed Wilms tumor gene, WT1, which encodes a zinc finger protein, has previously been isolated from human chromosome 11p13. Chemical mismatch cleavage analysis was used to identify point mutations in the zinc finger region of this gene in a series of 32 Wilms tumors. Two exonic single base changes were detected. In zinc finger 3 of a bilateral Wilms tumor patient, a constitutional de novo C----T base change was found changing an arginine to a stop codon. One tumor from this patient showed allele loss leading to 11p hemizygosity of the abnormal allele. In zinc finger 2 of a sporadic Wilms tumor patient, a C----T base change resulted in an arginine to cysteine amino acid change. To our knowledge, a WT1 gene missense mutation has not been detected previously in a Wilms tumor. By comparison with a recent NMR and x-ray crystallographic analysis of an analogous zinc finger gene, early growth response gene 1 (EGR1), this amino acid change in WT1 occurs at a residue predicted to be critical for DNA binding capacity and site specificity. The detection of one nonsense point mutation and one missense WT1 gene point mutation adds to the accumulating evidence implicating this gene in a proportion of Wilms tumor patients.