Cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis (CTX), an autosomal recessive lipid-storage hereditary disorder, is caused by mutations in the sterol 27-hydroxylase gene (CYP 27). A 24-year-old female Japanese CTX patient and her parents were studied for a CYP 27 mutation. Multiple xanthomas were the main complaint of the patient and plasma cholestanol level was markedly elevated. Sterol analysis of a xanthoma biopsy confirmed cholesterol and cholestanol deposition, and the cholestanol accounted for 8.1% of the total sterols. Sterol 27-hydroxylase activity in fibroblasts derived from the patient was undetectable, while the activities in fibroblasts from her mother and father were 54% and 41% of the normal level, respectively. Direct sequence analysis showed a missense mutation of A for G substitution in the CYP 27 gene at codon 362 (CGT 362Arg to CAT 362His) with a homozygous pattern in the patient, and a heterozygous pattern in the parents. The mutation, which eliminates a normal HgaI endonuclease site at position 1195 of the cDNA and is located at the adrenodoxin binding region of the gene, is most probably responsible for the decreased sterol 27-hydroxylase activity in this Japanese CTX family. The combined data strongly support that the primary enzymatic defect in CTX is the disruption of sterol 27-hydroxylase and that the disease is inherited in an autosomal recessive trait.