Deletions of the distal short arm of chromosome 1 (1p36) represent a common, newly delineated deletion syndrome, characterized by moderate to severe psychomotor retardation, seizures, growth delay, and dysmorphic features. Previous cytogenetic underascertainment of this chromosomal deletion has made it difficult to characterize the clinical and molecular aspects of the syndrome. Recent advances in cytogenetic technology, particularly FISH, have greatly improved the ability to identify 1p36 deletions and have allowed a clearer definition of the clinical phenotype and molecular characteristics of this syndrome. We have identified 14 patients with chromosome 1p36 deletions and have assessed the frequency of each phenotypic feature and clinical manifestation in the 13 patients with pure 1p36 deletions. The physical extent and parental origin of each deletion were determined by use of FISH probes on cytogenetic preparations and by analysis of polymorphic DNA markers in the patients and their available parents. Clinical examinations revealed that the most common features and medical problems in patients with this deletion syndrome include large anterior fontanelle (100%), motor delay/hypotonia (92%), moderate to severe mental retardation (92%), growth delay (85%), pointed chin (80%), eye/vision problems (75%), seizures (72%), flat nasal bridge (65%), clinodactyly and/or short fifth finger(s) (64%), low-set ear(s) (59%), ear asymmetry (57%), hearing deficits (56%), abusive behavior (56%), thickened ear helices (53%), and deep-set eyes (50%). FISH and DNA polymorphism analysis showed that there is no uniform region of deletion but, rather, a spectrum of different deletion sizes with a common minimal region of deletion overlap.