Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an X-linked recessive disorder which affects approximately 1 in 3,300 males, making it the most common of the neuromuscular dystrophies. The biochemical basis of the disease is unknown and as yet no effective treatment is available. A small number of females are also affected with the disease, and these have been found to carry X; autosome translocations involving variable autosomal sites but always with a breakpoint within band Xp21 of the X chromosome (implicated by other kinds of genetic evidence as the site of the DMD lesion). In these female patients the normal X chromosome is preferentially inactivated, which it is assumed silences their one normal DMD gene, leading to expression of the disease. In one such affected female the autosomal breakpoint lies in the middle of the short arm of chromosome 21, within a cluster of ribosomal RNA genes. Here we have used rRNA sequences as probes to clone the region spanning the translocation breakpoint. A sequence derived from the X-chromosomal portion of the clone detects a restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) which is closely linked to the DMD gene and uncovers chromosomal deletions in some male DMD patients.