In an attempt to replace the existing, DNA-based, 50% effective, carrier and prenatal diagnoses of haemophilia A with the 100% successful direct detection of defective genes, a new procedure was developed to screen and identify mutations in all the essential regions of the factor VIII gene (putative promoter, coding sequence, and the cleavage and polyadenylation region). Genomic DNA and cDNA obtained by reverse transcription of the "leaky" mRNA found in peripheral lymphocytes were amplified by means of the polymerase chain reaction to yield a set of eight segments comprising the essential gene sequences. The segments were then screened individually for mutations by the amplification mismatch detection method, which detects and locates any type of sequence discrepancy between the test DNA and the control probe by cleavage of the probe at the site of mismatches. Two haemophilia A patients were studied. The first showed two single-base changes: one (substitution of tryptophan 2229 by cysteine in the C2 domain) is the probable cause of the disease, since it affects a conserved residue of factor VIIIa, whereas the other (the conservative substitution of aspartic acid at position 1241 by glutamic acid) occurs in a domain (B) irrelevant to factor VIII activity. The second patient showed a complete failure of pre-mRNA splicing due to a single-base substitution that changes the obligatory AG acceptor splice site of intron 5 to GG. The method characterises the gene defect in 10 days or less and should lead to the rapid accumulation of information on the molecular biology of haemophilia A.