Hereditary neuropathy with liability to pressure palsies (HNPP) is associated with a deletion in chromosome 17p11.2, which includes the gene for the peripheral myelin protein 22 (PMP-22). A "gene dosage" effect is probably the mechanism underlying HNPP, but the amount of PMP-22 mRNA in sural nerves of HNPP patients is highly variable and the role of PMP-22 underexpression in impairing myelination has yet to be clarified. We have studied 6 genetically proven HNPP patients, to evaluate the relationship between PMP-22 mRNA levels, and clinical, neurophysiological, and neuropathological findings. Underexpression of PMP-22 mRNA correlates with disease severity and with mean axon diameter and g ratio, but not with myelin thickness, number of "tomacula," or nerve conduction parameters. Our findings further confirm that underexpression of PMP-22 is the main pathogenetic mechanism underlying the severity of clinical symptoms and signs in HNPP. Smaller axons in sural nerves of HNPP patients with lower PMP-22 levels suggests that underexpression of PMP-22 may also affect axon development.