Three mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene were discovered in a pancreas-insufficient patient with cystic fibrosis (CF) who displayed an uncommon combination of almost normal chloride concentration in sweat tests and typical symptoms of gastrointestinal and pulmonary disease. The R553Q mutation was found on the maternal delta F508-CFTR gene. Codon 553 is located within a consensus motif of the ATP-binding cassette transport proteins at a less conserved position. Other members of this protein superfamily contain a glutamine instead of arginine at the homologous position, suggesting a modulating rather than disease-causing role of the R553Q mutation in CFTR. The amplification refractory mutation system did not detect the R553Q mutation in a further 65 normal, 113 delta F508, and 91 non-delta F508 CF chromosomes. The index case carried the R553X nonsense mutation on the paternal chromosome. The R553X mutation was present on a further 9 out of 86 German non-delta F508 CF chromosomes linked with the XV2c-KM19-Mp6d9-J44-GATT haplotypes 2-2-2-1-1 and 1-1-2-1-2. The location of R553X on separate haplotypes including both alleles of the intragenic GATT repeat suggests an ancient and/or multiple origins of the R553X mutations. The association of the genotype of the CFTR mutation and the clinical phenotype was assessed for the patients carrying the related genotypes delta F508/delta F508 (n = 80), delta F508/R553X (n = 9) and delta F508-R553Q/R553X (n = 1). In compound heterozygotes, the median chloride concentration in pilocarpine iontophoresis sweat tests was significantly lower than in the delta F508 homozygotes (P less than 0.01). The patient groups were significantly different with respect to the distributions of the centiles for height (P less than 0.001) and weight (P less than 0.01) as the most sensitive predictors of the course and prognosis in CF. Growth retardation was more pronounced in the compound heterozygotes.