Mucopolysaccharidosis IVA is an autosomal recessive lysosomal storage disorder caused by a deficiency of N-acetylgalactosamine-6-sulfate sulfatase. The recent isolation and characterization of cDNA and genomic sequences encoding GALNS has facilitated identification of the molecular lesions that cause MPS IVA. We identified a common missense mutation among Caucasian MPS IVA patients. The mutation was originally detected by SSCP, and successive sequencing revealed an A-->T transversion at nt 393. This substitution altered the isoleucine at position 113 to phenylalanine (I113F) in the 622 amino acid GALNS protein and was associated with a severe phenotype in a homozygote. Compound heterozygotes with one I113F-allele mutation have a wide range of clinical phenotypes. Transfection experiments in GALNS-deficient fibroblasts revealed that the mutation drastically reduces the enzyme activity of GALNS. Allele-specific oligonucleotide or SSCP analysis indicated that this mutation accounted for 22.5% (9/40) of unrelated MPS IVA chromosomes from 23 Caucasian patients, including 6 consanguineous cases. Of interest, the I1e 113-->Phe substitution occurred in only Caucasian MPS IVA patients and in none of the GALNS alleles of 20 Japanese patients. These findings identify a frequent missense mutation among MPS IVA patients of Caucasian ancestry, that results in severe MPS IVA when homoallelic, and will facilitate molecular diagnosis of most such patients and identification of heterozygous carriers. In addition to this common mutation, 10 different point mutations and 2 small deletions were detected, suggesting allelic heterogeneity in GALNS gene.