Hypophosphatasia is an inherited disorder characterised by defective bone mineralisation and deficiency of serum and tissue liver/bone/kidney alkaline phosphatase (L/B/K ALP) activity. We report the characterisation of tissue-nonspecific alkaline phosphatase (TNSALP) gene mutations in a series of 13 European families affected by perinatal, infantile or childhood hypophosphatasia. Eighteen distinct mutations were found, only three of which had been reported previously in North American and Japanese populations. Most of the 15 new mutations were missense mutations, but we also found two mutations affecting donor splice sites and a nonsense mutation. A missense mutation in the last codon of the putative signal peptide probably affects the final maturation of the protein. Despite extensive sequencing of the gene and its promotor region, only one mutation was identified in two cases, one of which was compatible with a possible dominant effect of certain mutations and the putative role of polymorphisms of the TNSALP gene. In 12 of the 13 tested families, genetic diagnosis was possible by characterisation of the mutations or by use of polymorphisms as genetic markers. Hypophosphatasia diagnosis was assigned in two families where clinical, laboratory and radiographic data were unclear and prenatal diagnosis was performed in one case. The results also show that severe hypophosphatasia is due to a very large spectrum of mutations in European populations with no prevalent mutation and that genetic diagnosis of the disease must be performed by extensive analysis of the gene.