Autosomal dominant myotonia congenita and autosomal recessive generalized myotonia (GM) are genetic disorders characterized by the symptom of myotonia, which is based on an electrical instability of the muscle fiber membrane. Recently, these two phenotypes have been associated with mutations in the major muscle chloride channel gene CLCN1 on human chromosome 7q35. We have systematically screened the open reading frame of the CLCN1 gene for mutations by SSC analysis (SSCA) in a panel of 24 families and 17 single unrelated patients with human myotonia. By direct sequencing of aberrant SSCA conformers were revealed 15 different mutations in a total of 18 unrelated families and 13 single patients. Of these, 10 were novel (7 missense mutations, 2 mutations leading to frameshift, and 1 mutation predicted to affect normal splicing). In our overall sample of 94 GM chromosomes we were able to detect 48 (51%) mutant GM alleles. Three mutations (F413C), R894X, and a 14-bp deletion in exon 13) account for 32% of the GM chromosomes in the German population. Our finding that A437T is probably a polymorphism is in contrast to a recent report that the recessive phenotype GM is associated with this amino acid change. We also demonstrate that the R894X mutation may act as a recessive or a dominant mutation in the CLCN1 gene, probably depending on the genetic background. Functional expression of the R894X mutant in Xenopus oocytes revealed a large reduction, but not complete abolition, of chloride currents. Further, it had a weak dominant negative effect on wild-type currents in coexpression studies. Reduction of currents predicted for heterozygous carriers are close to the borderline value, which is sufficient to elicit myotonia.