Steroid 11 beta-hydroxylase (P450c11) deficiency (failure to convert 11-deoxycortisol to cortisol) causes less than 10% of cases of congenital adrenal hyperplasia in most populations, but it is relatively frequent in Jews of Moroccan origin. P450c11 is encoded by the CYP11B1 gene which is located on chromosome 8q22 along with a homologous gene of unknown function, CYP11B2. To identify mutations in CYP11B1 associated with 11 beta-hydroxylase deficiency in Moroccan Jews, oligonucleotides were used that selectively amplified portions of CYP11B1 in polymerase chain reactions without amplifying CYP11B2. Sequence analysis of amplified fragments from one patient revealed a single base substitution in exon 8, codon 448 from CGC (arginine) to CAC (histidine). This residue is within the "heme binding" peptide that contains a cysteine that is a ligand to the heme group. The equivalent of Arg-448 is found in every known eukaryotic P450, and therefore it seems likely that a mutation of this residue would adversely affect enzymatic activity. 11 of 12 affected alleles from six Moroccan Jewish families carried the mutation in codon 448. This mutation is not normally present in CYP11B2 and thus appears to have arisen in CYP11B1 as a true point mutation rather than a gene conversion.