Detection of new ligand-defective mutations of apolipoprotein B (apoB) will enable identification of sequences involved in binding to the LDL receptor. Genomic DNA from patients attending a lipid clinic was screened by single-strand conformation polymorphism analysis for novel mutations in the putative LDL receptor-binding domain of apoB-100. A 46-yr-old woman of Celtic and Native American ancestry with primary hypercholesterolemia (total cholesterol [TC] 343 mg/dl; LDL cholesterol [LDL-C] 241 mg/dl) and pronounced peripheral vascular disease was found to be heterozygous for a novel Arg3531-->Cys mutation, caused by a C-->T transition at nucleotide 10800. One unrelated 59-yr-old man of Italian ancestry was found with the same mutation after screening 1,560 individuals. He had coronary heart disease, a TC of 310 mg/dl, and an LDL-C of 212 mg/dl. A total of eight individuals were found with the defect in the families of the two patients. They had an age- and sex-adjusted TC of 240 +/- 14 mg/dl and LDL-C of 169 +/- 10 mg/dl. This compares with eight unaffected family members with age- and sex-adjusted TC of 185 +/- 12 mg/dl and LDL-C of 124 +/- 12 mg/dl. In a dual-label fibroblast binding assay, LDL from the eight subjects with the mutation had an affinity for the LDL receptor that was 63% that of control LDL. LDL from eight unaffected family members had an affinity of 91%. By way of comparison, LDL from six patients heterozygous for the Arg3500-->Gln mutation had an affinity of 36%. The percentage mass ratio of the defective Cys3531 LDL to normal LDL was 59:41, as determined using the mAb MB19 and dynamic laser light scattering. Thus, the defective LDL had accumulated in the plasma of these patients. Using this mass ratio, it was calculated that the defective Cys3531 LDL particles bound with 27% of normal affinity. Deduced haplotypes using 10 apoB gene markers showed the Arg3531-->Cys alleles to be different in the two kindreds and indicates that the mutations arose independently. The Arg3531-->Cys mutation is the second reported cause of familial ligand-defective apoB.