Carrier and prenatal diagnosis based on the identification of the gene defect (direct diagnosis) increases the proportion of haemophilia B families that can be offered precise genetic counselling from the 50-60% attainable by DNA markers, to 100% and they also provide information on the molecular biology of the disease. We propose that in order to maximize the practical and scientific benefits of direct diagnosis the gene defect of complete (possibly national) populations of patients should be characterized and the information stored in appropriate confidential databases. We demonstrate the feasibility of such a strategy by characterizing the mutations of all the patients registered with the Malmö haemophilia centre. These patients (44 male and 1 female) are from 45 unrelated families and 24 (53%) have negative family history. The 25 patients with similar reduction of factor IX:C and factor IX:Ag (24 male + 1 female) have: two gross deletions, three frameshifts, four translation stops, six mutations expected to affect pre-mRNA splicing and 10 amino acid substitutions. The six patients with greater reduction of factor IX:C than factor IX:Ag and the seven with reduced IX:C and normal IX:Ag have only amino acid substitutions. Patients with inhibitors have: one complete deletion, one frameshift and three translation stops. One patient has both a translation stop and a functionally neutral amino acid substitution (His257----Tyr). Characterization of the factor IX mutation was successful in every case, usually entailed 4 person-days work, and has led to the identification of 12 amino acid residues essential for the factor IX structure and function.