Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) due to steroid 21-hydroxylase deficiency is a common inherited defect of adrenal steroid hormone biosynthesis. Unusually for genetic disorders, the majority of mutations causing CAH apparently result from recombinations between the CYP21 gene encoding the 21-hydroxylase enzyme and the closely linked, highly homologous pseudogene CYP21P. The CYP21 and CYP21P genes are located in the major histocompatibility complex class III region on chromosome 6p21.3. We analyzed the mutations and recombination breakpoints in the CYP21 gene and determined the associated haplotypes in 51 unrelated Finnish families with CAH. They represent no less than half of all CYP21 deficiency patients in Finland. The results indicate the existence of multiple founder mutation-haplotype combinations in the population of Finnish CAH patients. The three most common haplotypes constituted half of all affected chromosomes; only one-sixth of the haplotypes represented single cases. Each of the common haplotypes was shown consistently to carry a typical CYP21 mutation and only in some cases was additional variation observed. Surprisingly, comparisons with previous published data revealed that several of the frequent mutation-haplotype combinations in Finland are in fact also found in many other populations of patients of European origin, thus suggesting that these haplotypes are of ancient origin. This is in clear contrast to many reports, including the present one, where a high frequency of de novo mutations in the CYP21 gene has been reported. In addition, two unique sequence aberrations in CYP21 (W302X and R356Q), not known to exist in the CYP21P pseudogene, were detected.