Apert syndrome, one of five craniosynostosis syndromes caused by allelic mutations of fibroblast growth-factor receptor 2 (FGFR2), is characterized by symmetrical bony syndactyly of the hands and feet. We have analyzed 260 unrelated patients, all but 2 of whom have missense mutations in exon 7, which affect a dipeptide in the linker region between the second and third immunoglobulin-like domains. Hence, the molecular mechanism of Apert syndrome is exquisitely specific. FGFR2 mutations in the remaining two patients are distinct in position and nature. Surprisingly, each patient harbors an Alu-element insertion of approximately 360 bp, in one case just upstream of exon 9 and in the other case within exon 9 itself. The insertions are likely to be pathological, because they have arisen de novo; in both cases this occurred on the paternal chromosome. FGFR2 is present in alternatively spliced isoforms characterized by either the IIIb (exon 8) or IIIc (exon 9) domains (keratinocyte growth-factor receptor [KGFR] and bacterially expressed kinase, respectively), which are differentially expressed in mouse limbs on embryonic day 13. Splicing of exon 9 was examined in RNA extracted from fibroblasts and keratinocytes from one patient with an Alu insertion and two patients with Pfeiffer syndrome who had nucleotide substitutions of the exon 9 acceptor splice site. Ectopic expression of KGFR in the fibroblast lines correlated with the severity of limb abnormalities. This provides the first genetic evidence that signaling through KGFR causes syndactyly in Apert syndrome.