Elastin is the protein responsible for the characteristic elastic properties of many tissues including the skin, lungs and large blood vessels. Loss-of-function mutations in the elastin gene are known to cause the heart defect supravalvular aortic stenosis (SVAS). We and others have identified deletions, nonsense mutations and splice site mutations in SVAS patients that abolish the function of one elastin gene. We have now identified an elastin mutation in a patient with a completely different phenotype, the rare autosomal dominant condition cutis laxa. A frameshift mutation in exon 32 of the elastin gene is predicted to replace 37 amino acids at the C-terminus of elastin by a novel sequence of 62 amino acids. mRNA and immunoprecipitation studies show that the mutant allele is expressed. Electron microscopy of skin sections shows abnormal branching and fragmentation in the amorphous elastin component, and immunocytochemistry shows reduced elastin deposition in the elastic fibres and fewer microfibrils in the dermis. These findings suggest that the mutant tropoelastin protein is synthesized, secreted and incorporated into the elastic matrix, where it alters the architecture of elastic fibres. Interference with cross-linking would reduce elastic recoil in affected tissues and explain the cutis laxa phenotype.