To understand the molecular basis of hemophilia A and to provide heterozygote detection and prenatal diagnosis by DNA analysis, we used cloned factor VIII:C DNA fragments to study 10 affected families. In four of these families, inhibitors of factor VIII:C had developed in affected persons. In one such family a deletion of approximately 80 kb within the factor VIII:C gene was identified. Carriers of the deletion were identified through detection of an abnormal DNA fragment located at the deletion end points. In another family a single nucleotide change in the coding region of the factor VIII:C gene produced a nonsense codon leading to premature termination of factor VIII:C synthesis. Carrier detection was performed in eight female members of this four-generation family. In a third family a small change in the size of a restriction-endonuclease fragment correlated with the presence of the mutant gene, and in the other seven families the molecular defect has not yet been identified. In addition, we used two common polymorphic sites in the factor VIII:C gene to differentiate the normal from the defective gene in four of six obligate female carriers from families with patients in whom inhibitors did not develop. Carrier detection was possible in other members of these families. These data suggest that DNA analysis of the factor VIII:C gene provides an accurate method of carrier detection and, potentially, of prenatal diagnosis in at least 50 per cent of the pedigrees affected by hemophilia A.