Idiopathic nephrotic syndrome (INS) in childhood is characterized by massive proteinuria and minimal glomerular changes. Most patients with INS respond to steroid therapy. INS is generally regarded as a sporadic disease with favorable outcome. We investigated a distinct subgroup of nephrosis--the familial form of steroid resistant INS (SRN). These patients always progress to end-stage renal failure within a few years and show absence of recurrence of the disease after renal transplantation. The occurrence of the disorder in siblings and the high incidence of inbreeding in these families made an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance very likely. We performed whole genome linkage analysis in nine multiplex families of European or Northern African origin. Our results allowed us to assign a disease locus (SRN1) to a defined chromosomal region on 1q25-1q31, thus confirming the existence of a distinct entity of autosomal recessive nephrosis. Exclusion of linkage to the entire region in one family proves genetic heterogeneity.