Pterin-4a-carbinolamine dehydratase (PCD) is required for efficient tetrahydrobiopterin regeneration after phenylalanine hydroxylase activity. This catalytic function was proposed to be specifically defective in newborns with a mild form of hyperphenylalaninemia (HPA) and persistent high urinary levels of primapterin (7-biopterin). A second regulatory task of the same protein is DCoH, a coactivation of transcription by hepatocyte nuclear factor 1alpha (HNF-1alpha), a function that is apparently not impaired in these HPA individuals. It has been shown elsewhere that the human PCD/DCoH bifunctional protein is encoded by a single 4-exon-containing gene, PCBD, located on chromosome 10q22. We have now examined the PCBD gene for mutations at the genomic level in six such HPA patients from four different families. By the use of new intron-specific primers, we detected, in all six patients, single, homozygous nucleotide alterations, in exon 4, that were inherited from their parents. These homozygous alterations predicted mutant PCD/DCoH with a single amino acid exchange, in two cases (alleles T78I), or premature stop codons, in the other four patients (alleles E86X and Q97X). Recombinant expression in Escherichia coli revealed that the mutant proteins-T78I, E86X, and Q97X-are almost entirely in the insoluble fraction, in contrast to wild type, which is expressed as a soluble protein. These data support the proposal that HPA in combination with urinary primapterin may be due to autosomal recessive inheritance of mutations in the PCBD gene specifically affecting the dehydratase activity.