A male child with multiple congenital anomalies initially was clinically diagnosed as having Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS). Subsequent cytogenetic studies revealed an interstitial deletion of 17p11.2, which is associated with Smith-Magenis syndrome (SMS). Biochemical studies were not supportive of a diagnosis of SLOS, and the child did not display the typical SMS phenotype. The father's karyotype showed a paracentric inversion of 17p, with breakpoints in p11.2 and p13.3, and the same inversion was also found in two of the father's sisters. FISH analyses of the deleted and inverted 17p chromosomes indicated that the deletion was similar to that typically seen in SMS patients and was found to bracket the proximal inversion breakpoint. Available family members were genotyped at 33 polymorphic DNA loci in 17p. These studies determined that the deletion was of paternal origin and that the inversion was of grandpaternal origin. Haplotype analysis demonstrated that the 17p11.2 deletion arose following a recombination event involving the father's normal and inverted chromosome 17 homologues. A mechanism is proposed to explain the simultaneous deletion and apparent "reinversion" of the recombinant paternal chromosome. These findings have implications for prenatal counseling of carriers of paracentric inversions, who typically are considered to bear minimal reproductive risk.