Leukocyte adhesion deficiency (LAD) is an autosomal recessive disease caused by mutations in the CD18 gene which codes for the beta 2 integrin subunit. We studied two patients, the first of which had a moderate LAD phenotype and expressed only 9% of CD11/CD18 on blood leukocytes. RNA from lymphoblasts was reverse-transcribed, and the cDNA was amplified, cloned, and sequenced. An ATG to AAG alteration in the initiation codon was detected in 39 of 45 (87%) cDNA clones. This mutation was detected in the father, but not in the mother. The maternal defect was shown to be a frameshift mutation with the deletion of a single T in the aspartic acid codon at position 690 (GAT), 11 amino acids N-terminal to the beginning of the transmembrane domain. This mutation predicts a polypeptide which would terminate without transmembrane or cytoplasmic domains. The frameshift mutation was also found in the second patient who had the severe phenotype of LAD (less than 1% of CD11/CD18), indicating that this allele does not encode a functional protein. The partial expression in the patient with a moderate phenotype must be derived from the initiation codon mutation and may be due to a low level of initiation of translation of the CD18 mRNA at the second codon (CUG).