Unbalanced translocations are a frequent cause of multiple congenital anomalies in children. Translocations as small as 2-5 Mb of DNA are detectable by G-banding under optimal conditions. Some of these small translocations are visible but cannot be characterized cytogenetically due to the lack of characteristic banding on Giemsa preparations. We have combined chromosomal microdissection and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) to identify the origin of a small translocated segment in three members of a family with a derivative chromosome 9 and multiple anomalies, including several ophthalmologic anomalies. We microdissected the abnormal region of the derivative 9 chromosome and used this DNA to generate a FISH probe. This probe hybridized to distal 10p on the metaphase spread of the proband, indicating the origin of the translocated segment. A whole 10p FISH probe confirmed the origin by hybridizing to the translocated segment of the derivative chromosome. FISH was then performed with a whole chromosome 9 painting probe and excluded the presence of a reciprocal, balancing translocation. We then studied the chromosome 10 partial duplication with microsatellite markers to better characterize the chromosomal segment that caused these phenotypic features. By examining the involved areas with distal 10p and 9p microsatellite markers, we were able to demonstrate a minimum of 9 Mb of trisomic 10p DNA with a chromosomal breakpoint between 10p14-10p15. We then compared this family's clinical findings to those of individuals with partial 10p trisomy who had been reported in the literature. The clinical phenotypes seen in this family are similar to, but milder than, the phenotypes of persons with the larger partial trisomies of 10p that were diagnosable by cytogenetic analysis alone. This study shows that microdissection and DNA markers can be used to precisely define small translocations that are difficult to identify by conventional G-banded chromosome analysis.