There are several variants of ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T): classical A-T with marked radiation sensitivity; classical A-T with intermediate levels of radiation sensitivity; mild A-T with intermediate levels of radiation sensitivity; A-T without telangiectasia; A-T without oculomotor apraxia; and A-T with microcephaly. These disorders are probably caused by different allelic mutations, because affected sibs resemble the index patients, and because there is an association of certain haplotypes of 11q22-23 with specific phenotypes. The Nijmegen Breakage Syndrome, with its lack of ataxia, seems on clinical grounds to be a different disorder. Although A-T is almost always inherited as an autosomal recessive, there are some unusual features; an unexpectedly low parental consanguinity rate, an incidence in sibs that is < 0.25, and occurrence of disease in many different races and in the offspring of mixed race unions. Moreover, looking at haplotypes from 63 UK patients, there is a remarkably low incidence of homozygosity. An autosomal recessive condition that is deficient in parental consanguinity, and in homozygosity for the region around the gene, can be explained by J. H. Edwards' hypothesis that homozygosity for alleles at a neighbouring locus are lethal early in embryogenesis. Other possible mechanisms to explain the unusual genetic features are discussed.