Autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease (ARPKD) is a one of the most common hereditary renal cystic diseases in children. Its clinical spectrum is widely variable with most cases presenting in infancy. Most affected neonates die within the first few hours of life. At present, prenatal diagnosis relies on fetal sonography, which is often imprecise in detecting even the severe form of the disease. Recently, in a cohort of families with mostly milder ARPKD phenotypes, an ARPKD locus was mapped to a 13-cM region of chromosome 6p21-cen. To determine whether severe perinatal ARPKD also maps to chromosome 6p, we have analyzed the segregation of seven microsatellite markers from the ARPKD interval in 22 families with the severe phenotype. In the majority of the affected infants, ARPKD was documented by histopathology. Our data confirm linkage and refine the ARPKD region to a 3.8-cM interval, delimited by the markers D6S465/D6S427/D6S436/D6S272 and D6S466. Taken together, these results suggest that, despite the wide variability in clinical phenotypes, there is a single ARPKD gene. These linkage data and the absence of genetic heterogeneity in all families tested to date have important implications for DNA-based prenatal diagnoses as well as for the isolation of the ARPKD gene.