Hundreds of murine dilute mutations have been identified and analysed, making dilute one of the best genetically characterized of all mammalian loci. The recessive dilute (d) coat colour mutation carried by many inbred strains of mice produces a lightening of coat colour, caused by an abnormal adendritic melanocyte morphology that results in an uneven release of pigment granules into the developing hair shaft. Most dilute alleles (dilute-lethal) also produce a neurological defect, characterized by convulsions and opisthotonus, apparent at 8-10 days of age and continuing until the death of the animal at 2-3 weeks of age. The discovery that the original dilute allele (now termed dilute-viral or dV) is the result of the integration of an ecotropic murine leukaemia provirus has allowed the cloning of genomic DNA and in this study complementary DNA, from the dilute locus. The predicted dilute amino-acid sequence indicates that dilute encodes a novel type of myosin heavy chain, with a tail, or C-terminal, region that has elements of both type II (alpha-helical coiled-coil) and type I (non-coiled-coil) myosin heavy chains. Dilute transcripts are differentially expressed in both embryonic and adult tissues and are very abundant in neurons of the central nervous system, cephalic ganglia, and spinal ganglia. These results suggest an important role for the dilute gene product in the elaboration, maintenance, or function of cellular processes of melanocytes and neurons.