Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) is a complex multiple anomaly syndrome that has been shown to result from deficient expression of paternal chromosome 15(q11-q13). In most cases, it is caused either by deletion of this region in the paternally inherited chromosome 15 or by maternal uniparental disomy (UPD) of chromosome 15. In order to determine whether there are phenotypic differences between patients whose PWS is caused by these two different mechanisms, 54 affected individuals (37 with deletion, 17 with UPD) were personally examined and studied using molecular techniques. The previously recognized increased maternal age in patients with UPD and increased frequency of hypopigmentation in those with deletion were confirmed. Although the frequency and severity of most other manifestations of PWS did not differ significantly between the two groups, those with UPD were less likely to have a "typical" facial appearance. In addition, this group was less likely to show some of the minor manifestations such as skin picking, skill with jigsaw puzzles, and high pain threshold. Females and those with UPD were also older, on average. Possible mechanisms by which these differences could occur and the implications of these differences for diagnosis are described.