The human steroid 21-hydroxylase gene, CYP21B, and its closely homologous pseudogene, CYP21A, are each normally located centromeric to a complement C4 gene C4B and C4A respectively, in an organization suggesting tandem duplication of a CYP21 + C4 unit. Such an organization has been considered to facilitate gene deletion and addition events by unequal crossover between the tandem repeats. However, the large size (approximately 30 kb) of the individual CYP21 + C4 repeat units together with the difficulty in identifying reliable CYP21A- and CYP21B-specific markers has prevented direct monitoring of gene organization on individual haplotypes by conventional Southern analyses. In the present investigation we have sought to clarify the CYP21 and C4 gene organization in members of 32 British 21-hydroxylase deficiency families by employing additional experimental approaches, notably a long-range restriction mapping approach, which permits assessment through a VNTR type of analysis, of the number of CYP21 and C4 units on individual haplotypes. Our results show that there is a very high frequency (33%) of 21-hydroxylase deficiency haplotypes where functional CYP21B gene sequence has been removed as a consequence of CYP21 + C4 gene deletion while several haplotypes show evidence of gene addition. In each case that we have investigated the gene deletion and gene addition haplotypes differ in length from conventional haplotypes by integral multiples of approximately 30 kb, which strongly supports the involvement of unequal crossover mechanisms. Additionally, the comparatively frequent occurrence of CYP21 fusion genes which contain both CYP21A- and CYP21B-associated markers is suggested by the combined data from Southern analyses, long-range restriction mapping and characterization of selected regions of CYP21 genes which have been amplified in vitro.