An interesting feature of neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is its high mutation rate of 1 x 10(-4) per gamete per generation. The molecular basis for frequent NF1 mutation in unknown; the gene is not deletion prone. We have found that in all ten families examined, the apparent new NF1 mutation occurred on the paternally-derived chromosome. The probability of observing this result by chance is less than 0.001 assuming an equal frequency of mutation of paternal and maternal NF1 genes. We hypothesize a role for genomic imprinting that may either enhance mutation of the paternal NF1 gene or confer protection from mutation to the maternal NF1 gene.