Dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase (DPD) deficiency (McKusick 274270) is an autosomal recessive disease characterized by thymine-uraciluria in homozygous-deficient patients and associated with a variable clinical phenotype. Cancer patients with this defect should not be treated with the usual dose of 5-fluorouracil because of the expected lethal toxicity. In addition, heterozygosity for mutations in the DPD gene increases the risk of toxicity in cancer patients treated with this drug. Sequence analysis in a patient with complete DPD deficiency, previously shown to be heterozygous for the delta C1897 frame-shift mutation, revealed the presence of a novel missense mutation, R235W. Expression of this novel mutation and previously identified missense mutations C29R and R886H in Escherichia coli showed that both C29R and R235W lead to a mutant DPD protein without significant residual enzymatic activity. The R886H mutation, however, resulted in about 25% residual enzymatic activity and is unlikely to be responsible for the DPD-deficient phenotype. We show that the E. coli expression system is a valuable tool for examining DPD enzymatic variants. In addition, two new patients who were both heterozygous for the C29R mutation and the common splice donor site mutation were identified. Only one of these patients showed convulsive disorders during childhood, whereas the other showed no clinical phenotype, further illustrating the lack of correlation between genotype and phenotype in DPD deficiency.