Members in three generations of a family whose propositus had keratoconus were examined by biomicroscopy, with a corneoscope and a computer-assisted videophoto-keratoscope. Keratoconus was detected in eight of 15 family members with vertical transmission consistent with autosomal dominant inheritance. Affected individuals displayed variable topographic features. Abortive "nipple-type" cones were identified in some individuals in successive generations using the computer-assisted videophotokeratoscope and more advanced nipple-type cones detected on biomicroscopy of other family members. We selected a COL6A1 cDNA (the gene encoding the alpha 1 chain of type VI collagen) as a "candidate gene" to determine cosegregation with the disease locus. Linkage analysis excluded a gene locus for keratoconus on the most telomeric region of chromosome 21 in this family.