Maintenance of fluid and electrolyte homeostasis is critical for normal neuromuscular function. Bartter's syndrome is an autosomal recessive disease characterized by diverse abnormalities in electrolyte homeostasis including hypokalaemic metabolic alkalosis; Gitelman's syndrome represents the predominant subset of Bartter's patients having hypomagnesemia and hypocalciuria. We now demonstrate complete linkage of Gitelman's syndrome to the locus encoding the renal thiazide-sensitive Na-Cl cotransporter, and identify a wide variety of non-conservative mutations, consistent with loss of function alleles, in affected subjects. These findings demonstrate the molecular basis of Gitelman's syndrome. We speculate that these mutant alleles lead to reduced sodium chloride reabsorption in the more common heterozygotes, potentially protecting against development of hypertension.