The mutation causing myotonic dystrophy has been identified as an unstable trinucleotide CTG repeat located in the 3' untranslated region of a gene putatively encoding a serine-threonine protein kinase. The mutation has been reported to be in total linkage disequilibrium with an insertion/deletion polymorphism located within the kinase gene. To determine the nature of this polymorphism, we have sequenced this genomic fragment and have found that the sequence of this region consists of five consecutive Alu repeats. Further analysis suggests that the smaller of two alleles is actually due to a proposed deletion event that resulted in the loss of an equivalent of three Alu repeats. We have developed a PCR-based assay to detect this polymorphism, the closest, distal marker to the DM mutation.