The gene for the most common and severe form of autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, PKD1, encodes a 14 kb mRNA that is predicted to result in an integral membrane protein of 4302 amino acids. The major challenge faced by researchers attempting to complete mutation analysis of the PKD1 gene has been the presence of several homologous loci also located on chromosome 16. Because the sequence of PKD1 and its homologs is nearly identical in the 5' region of the gene, most traditional approaches to mutation analysis cannot distinguish sequence variants occurring uniquely in PKD1. Therefore, only a small number of mutations have been identified to date and these have all been found in the 3', unique portion of the gene. In order to begin analysis of the duplicated region of PKD1, we have devised a novel strategy that depends on long-range PCR and a single gene-specific primer from the unique region of the gene to amplify a PKD1-specific template that spans exons 23-34. This 10 kb template, amplified from genomic DNA, can be employed for mutation analysis using a wide variety of sequence-based approaches. We have used our long-range PCR strategy to begin screening for sequence variants with heteroduplex analysis, and several affected individuals were discovered to have clusters of base pair substitutions in exons 23 and 25. In two patients, these changes, identified in exon 23, would be predicted to result in multiple amino acid substitutions in a short stretch of the protein. This clustering of base pair substitutions is unusual and suggests that mutation may result from unique structural features of the PKD1 gene.