Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) complementation group D is a heterogeneous group, containing patients with XP alone, rare cases with both XP and Cockayne syndrome, and patients with trichothiodystrophy (TTD). TTD is a rare autosomal recessive multisystem disorder associated, in many patients, with a defect in nucleotide-excision repair; but in contrast to XP patients, TTD patients are not cancer prone. In most of the repair-deficient TTD patients, the defect has been assigned to the XPD gene. The XPD gene product is a subunit of transcription factor TFIIH, which is involved in both DNA repair and transcription. We have determined the mutations and the pattern of inheritance of the XPD alleles in the 11 cases identified in Italy so far, in which the hair abnormalities diagnostic for TTD are associated with different disease severity but similar cellular photosensitivity. We have identified eight causative mutations, of which four have not been described before, either in TTD or XP cases, supporting the hypothesis that the mutations responsible for TTD are different from those found in other pathological phenotypes. Arg112his was the most common alteration in the Italian patients, of whom five were homozygotes and two were heterozygotes, for this mutation. The presence of a specifically mutated XPD allele, irrespective of its homozygous, hemizygous, or heterozygous condition, was always associated with the same degree of cellular UV hypersensitivity. Surprisingly, however, the severity of the clinical symptoms did not correlate with the magnitude of the DNA-repair defect. The most severe clinical features were found in patients who appear to be functionally hemizygous for the mutated allele.