The spinal muscular atrophies (SMAs) are a genetically and clinically heterogeneous group of disorders characterized by degeneration and loss of anterior horn cells in the spinal cord, leading to muscle weakness and atrophy. Spinal muscular atrophy with pontocerebellar hypoplasia (SMA-PCH, also known as pontocerebellar hypoplasia type 1 [PCH1]) is one of the rare infantile SMA variants that include additional clinical manifestations, and its genetic basis is unknown. We used a homozygosity mapping and positional cloning approach in a consanguineous family of Ashkenazi Jewish origin and identified a nonsense mutation in the vaccinia-related kinase 1 gene (VRK1) as a cause of SMA-PCH. VRK1, one of three members of the mammalian VRK family, is a serine/threonine kinase that phosphorylates p53 and CREB and is essential for nuclear envelope formation. Its identification as a gene involved in SMA-PCH implies new roles for the VRK proteins in neuronal development and maintenance and suggests the VRK genes as candidates for related phenotypes.