Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is a common genetic disease which frequently results in renal failure. The major ADPKD gene, polycystic kidney disease 1 (PKD1), has recently been identified. In an attempt to understand better the aetiology of this disorder we have searched for mutations in the PKD1 gene. Analysis of three regions in the 3' part of the gene has revealed two mutations that occur by a novel mechanism. Both mutations are deletions (of 18 or 20 bp) within the same 75 bp intron and although these deletions do not disrupt the splice donor or acceptor sites at the boundary of the intron, they nevertheless result in aberrant splicing. Two different transcripts are produced in each case; one includes the deleted intron while the other has a 66 bp deletion due to activation of a cryptic 5' splice site. No normal product is generated from the deleted gene. Aberrant splicing probably occurs because the deleted intron is too small for spliceosome assembly using the authentic splice sites; this mechanism has previously only been described from in vitro studies of vertebrate genes. A 9 bp direct repeat has been identified within the intron, which probably facilitated deletion by promoting misalignment of sequence. The possible phenotypic implications of producing more than one aberrant PKD1 transcript in these cases are discussed.