Biotinidase deficiency is an autosomal recessively inherited disorder in the recycling of the vitamin biotin. The most common mutation that causes profound biotinidase deficiency in symptomatic individuals is a deletion/insertion (G98d7i3) that occurs in exon B of the biotinidase gene. We now report the second most common mutation, a C-to-T substitution (position 1612) in a CpG dinucleotide in exon D of the biotinidase gene. This mutation results in the substitution of a cysteine for arginine538 (designated R538C) and was found in 10 of 30 symptomatic children with profound biotinidase deficiency, 5 of whom also have the G98d7i3 mutation. This mutation was not found in DNA samples from 32 individuals with normal biotinidase activity, but was found in one individual with enzyme activity in the heterozygous range. This mutation was not detected in 371 randomly selected, normal individuals using allele-specific oligonucleotide hybridization analysis. Aberrant biotinidase protein was not detectable in extracts of fibroblasts from a child who is homozygous for the R538C mutation, but was present in less than normal concentration in identical extracts treated with beta-mercaptoethanol. Because there is no detectable biotinidase protein in sera of children who are homozygous for the R538C mutation and in combination with the deletion/insertion mutation, the R538C mutation likely results in inappropriate intra- or intermolecular disulfide bond formation, more rapid degradation of the aberrant enzyme, and failure to secrete the residual aberrant enzyme from the cells into blood.