Biotinidase deficiency is inherited as an antosomal recessive trait that, unless treated with pharmacologic doses of biotin, can result in neurologic and cutaneous symptoms. We have identified two new mutations in exon D of the biotinidase gene of children with profound biotinidase deficiency ascertained by newborn screening. Transition 511G->A near the 5' end of exon D results in a substitution of threonine for alanine 171 (A171T) and transversion 1330G->C occurs close to the 3' end of exon D causing a substitution of histidine for aspartic acid 444 (D444H). The D444H mutation was detected in four individuals from our normal population whose mean serum biotinidase activity is 5.25 nmol/min/ml, which is significantly lower than the mean normal activity (7.1 nmol/min/ml). We calculated that this mutation causes a 52% loss of activity in the aberrant enzyme. Twenty-three individuals with the D444H mutation were found by allele specific oligonucleotide analysis of DNA from 296 randomly-selected, anonymous dried-blood spots. We estimate the frequency of this allele in the general population to be 0.039. In contrast, no individuals in 376 have the A171T mutation. Fourteen children (eleven probands and three siblings) out of the 31 enzyme-deficient children have both the A171T and D444H mutations. Both mutations are inherited from a single parent as a double mutation allele. The nine families in which this allele was identified are of mostly European ancestry, although the mutation cannot be attributed to a specific nationality or ethnic group. The serum of a child who is homozygous for the double mutation allele has very little CRM and the aberrant enzyme has very low biotinylhydrolase activity and no botinyl-transferase activity. This double mutation allele (A171T and D444H) is a common cause of profound biotinidase deficience in children ascertained by newborn screening in the United States.