Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is an autosomal dominant disorder with a prevalence of around 1 in 3500, affecting all ethnic groups. The clinical manifestations of the disease are variable, even among members of the same family, and affect a variety of tissues and cell types, including skin, iris, central and peripheral nervous systems and skeletal system. It has been reported that the majority of sporadic mutations in NF1 arise in paternally inherited alleles. We present here a collaborative study of the parental origin and type of mutation in individuals with de novo NF1, who account for up to a half of all cases of clinically diagnosed NF1. We have studied intragenic and extragenic markers in 470 NF1 families. In 32 of these families it was possible to assess the parental origin of a de novo NF1 mutation either by linkage analysis (in families with three generations) or by the detection of an intragenic deletion in a sporadic NF1 case. Eleven of these 32 families have three generations (the second and third generation being affected), with the mutation (not a large deletion) being of paternal origin in 82% of them (P < 0.05). In the other 21 families an intragenic deletion was detected, in 76% being in the maternal chromosome and in 24% in the paternal one (P < 0.05). Our results suggest that in NF1 the majority of deletions occur in oogenesis, while other types of mutations should account for the paternally derived NF1 mutations.