A family is described in which nine members over two generations had an aortic dissecting aneurysm or aortic or arterial dilation at a young age. The family has been followed up since 1977 after the death of a second teenager from a kindred of 11. None of the patients had the Marfan syndrome or a history of systemic hypertension. Three members died of ruptured aortic dissecting aneurysm and acute hemopericardium at 14, 18 and 24 years of age, respectively; a fourth member died suddenly at age 48 years, a few years after aortic repair for aneurysmal dilation. One member underwent surgical repair of an ascending aortic dissecting aneurysm at age 18 years and is still alive. Four members are currently under close medical observation for aortic or arterial dilation. Histologic examination of the aortic wall at autopsy or surgery in three patients revealed a loss of elastic fibers, deposition of mucopolysaccharide-like material in the media and cystic medial changes. Types I and III collagen from cultured fibroblasts appeared normal on gel electrophoresis. Results of indirect immunofluorescent studies of the elastin-associated microfibrillar fiber array in skin and fibroblast culture from multiple family members were also normal. This dramatic familial cluster of aortic dissecting aneurysm and aortic or arterial dilation suggests a genetically determined disease of autosomal dominant inheritance although the basic defect remains unknown.