Dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase (DPD) deficiency constitutes an inborn error in pyrimidine metabolism associated with thymine-uraciluria in pediatric patients and an increased risk of toxicity in cancer patients receiving 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) treatment. The molecular basis for DPD deficiency in a British family having a cancer patient that exhibited grade IV toxicity 10 d after 5-FU treatment was analyzed. A 165-bp deletion spanning a complete exon of the DPYD gene was found in some members of the pedigree having low DPD catalytic activity. Direct sequencing of lymphocyte DNA from these subjects revealed the presence of a G to A point mutation at the 5'-splicing site consensus sequence (GT to AT) that leads to skipping of the entire exon preceding the mutation during pre-RNA transcription and processing. A PCR-based diagnostic method was developed to determine that the mutation is found in Caucasian and Asian populations. This mutation was also detected in a Dutch patient with thymine-uraciluria and completely lacking DPD activity. A genotyping test for the G to A splicing point mutation could be useful in predicting cancer patients prone to toxicity upon administration of potentially toxic 5-FU and for genetic screening of heterozygous carriers and homozygous deficient subjects.