Two steroid 21-hydroxylase genes are normally present within the human major histocompatibility complex near the genes encoding the fourth component of complement (C4A and C4B). Steroid 21-hydroxylase is encoded by the CYP21 gene, while the highly homologous CYP21P gene is a pseudogene. We studied steroid 21-hydroxylase and complement C4 haplotypes in 33 Dutch patients (29 families) suffering form classical congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) and in their 80 family members, and also in 55 unrelated healthy controls, using 21-hydroxylase and complement C4 cDNA probes. Eleven different haplotypes, defined in terms of gene deletions, gene duplications, conversions of CYP21 to CYP21P, and "long" and "short" C4 genes, were found. In 23% of the patients' haplotypes, the CYP21 gene was deleted; in 12%, it was converted into a CYP21P pseudogene. In the remaining 65%, the defect was apparently caused by a mutation not detectable by this method. The most common haplotype (with one CYP21 and one CYP21P gene) was significantly more often observed in patients with simple virilizing CAH than in those with salt-losing CAH. Comparison of the 21-hydroxylase haplotypes found in CAH patients from several countries shows evidence for considerable genetic variation between the groups studied.