Six of nine children born from first-cousin parents presented with the same clinical picture: non-progressive congenital encephalopathy with marked hypertonia resembling the stiff-baby syndrome, delayed milestones, mental deficiency and congenital deafness. Rare, usually reversible, episodes of sudden worsening of the neurological status, with progressive loss of consciousness and increase of hypertonia, occurred spontaneously or during febrile illnesses. During these periods, and sometimes on other occasions, transitory renal dysfunction was observed (nephrotic syndrome and/or tubular abnormalities). Death occurred before age 2 years in 4 patients; 2 are still alive (10 and 13 years old). Electrophysiological, biological and enzymatic investigations remained negative, particularly those concerning mitochondrial and peroxisomal metabolism. The only biochemical anomaly was a massive hyperkynureninuria, seen only during the periods of coma (up to 213 mumol/mmol creatinine; normal < 10) and after an intravenous protein loading test. This suggests an anomaly of tryptophan metabolism which has not been reported up to now.