The prevalence of familial defective apolipoprotein (apo) B-100 (FDB) was determined by sampling 5,160 volunteer subjects from among 14,058 eligible employees of a bank in California. The sample was ethnically diverse (44.6% of the population was non-Caucasian). The prevalence of FDB in the study population was 0.08% with a 90% confidence interval of 0.01-0.14%. Four subjects were found to have the apoB 3500 codon mutation by mutagenic polymerase chain reaction, which creates an MspI site at the 3500 codon of normal alleles but not alleles coding for the Arg-->Gln mutation of FDB. Three of these were Caucasian and born in North America. The fourth was a native of China. Haplotype analysis of the affected allele of the Chinese subject using 10 markers described by Ludwig and McCarthy (1990. Am. J. Hum. Genet. 47: 712-720) revealed a unique haplotype that differed from the haplotype of all other subjects with FDB. This unique allele had 30 repeats of a 3' hypervariable element instead of 48 as was found in the allele associated with FDB in other subjects, and in the 3' region there was an EcoRI site that was also not present in the allele most commonly found in association with FDB. We conclude that the prevalence of FDB in our ethnically diverse population is lower than that reported in previous studies of predominantly Caucasian populations and that the Chinese subject represents either an independent mutation or possibly recombination at the 3' end of the apoB gene, an event not previously described.