Mutations in the zinc finger transcription factor ZIC3 cause X-linked heterotaxy and have also been identified in patients with isolated congenital heart disease (CHD). To determine the relative contribution of ZIC3 mutations to both heterotaxy and isolated CHD, we screened the coding region of ZIC3 in 194 unrelated patients, including 61 patients with classic heterotaxy, 93 patients with heart defects characteristic of heterotaxy, and 11 patients with situs inversus totalis. Five novel ZIC3 mutations in three classic heterotaxy kindreds and two sporadic CHD cases were identified. None of these alleles was found in 97 ethnically matched control samples. On the basis of these analyses, we conclude that the phenotypic spectrum of ZIC3 mutations should be expanded to include affected females and CHD not typical for heterotaxy. This screening of a cohort of patients with sporadic heterotaxy indicates that ZIC3 mutations account for approximately 1% of affected individuals. Missense and nonsense mutations were found in the highly conserved zinc finger-binding domain and in the N-terminal protein domain. Functional analysis of all currently known ZIC3 point mutations indicates that mutations in the putative zinc finger DNA binding domain and in the N-terminal domain result in loss of reporter gene transactivation. It is surprising that transfection studies demonstrate aberrant cytoplasmic localization resulting from mutations between amino acids 253-323 of the ZIC3 protein, indicating that the pathogenesis of a subset of ZIC3 mutations results at least in part from failure of appropriate nuclear localization. These results further expand the phenotypic and genotypic spectrum of ZIC3 mutations and provide initial mechanistic insight into their functional consequences.