X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a neurodegenerative disorder associated with impaired beta-oxidation of very-long-chain fatty acids (VLCFA), is due to mutations in a gene encoding a peroxisomal ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter (ALD protein [ALDP]). We analyzed the open reading frame of the ALD gene in 44 French ALD kindred by using SSCP or denaturing gradient-gel electrophoresis and studied the effect of mutations on ALDP by immunocytofluorescence and western blotting of fibroblasts and/or white blood cells. Mutations were detected in 37 of 44 kindreds and were distributed over the whole protein-coding region, with the exception of the C terminus encoded in exon 10. Except for two mutations (delAG1801 and P560L) observed four times each, nearly every ALD family has a different mutation. Twenty-four of 37 mutations were missense mutations leading to amino acid changes located in or close to putative transmembrane segments (TMS 2, 3, 4, and 5), in the EAA-like motif and in the nucleotide fold of the ATP-binding domain of ALDP. Of 38 ALD patients tested, 27 (71%) lacked ALDP immunoreactivity in their fibroblasts and/or white blood cells. More than half of missense mutations studied (11 of 21) resulted in a complete lack of ALDP immunoreactivity, and six missense mutations resulted in decreased ALDP expression. The fibroblasts and/or white blood cells of 15 of 15 heterozygous carrier from ALD kindred with no ALDP showed a mixture of positive- and negative-ALDP immunoreactivity due to X-inactivation. Since 5%-15% of heterozygous women have normal VLCFA levels, the immunodetection of ALDP in white blood cells can be applicable in a majority of ALD kindred, to identify heterozygous women, particularly when the ALD gene mutation has not yet been identified.