Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), affecting primarily the growth of neural crest-derived tissues, is one of the most common autosomal dominant genetic disorders with an unusually high spontaneous mutation rate. In four cases of sporadic NF1, demonstrated by hemizygosity to have a deletion involving the NF1 gene, we were able to assign the deletion event to the maternally derived chromosome. One of these individuals was determined to be a somatic mosaic for NF1, as a trace of the maternally derived haplotype was detected at the NF1 locus. This indicated a postzygotic, as opposed to gametic, deletion event. It may be that somatic mosaicism is more common in NF1 than has hitherto been appreciated and may be responsible in part for the high mutation rate in this disorder. In addition, it is suggested that the mechanism(s) of gene deletion is subject to a parent of origin effect, being more frequent on the maternally derived chromosome. This is in contrast to the other types of mutations which, in sporadic NF1, have been found to occur preferentially on the paternally derived chromosome.