We have analyzed the sequence of the beta globin gene of a chromosome that is linked to the occurrence of an inclusion body beta-thalassemia characterized in the heterozygote by moderate anemia, severe red cell abnormalities, splenomegaly, inclusion body formation, elevated Hb A2 levels, and an increased in vitro alpha/beta chain synthetic ratio. The data indicate a change in codon 114 from CTG (Leu) to -GG that resulted in a frameshift and the presumed synthesis of an abnormal beta chain that is 156 residues long with a completely different C-terminal amino acid sequence. The change in codon 114 gives a -GGGCCC- sequence that creates a new ApaI site; the resulting 2.6-kilobase fragment has been observed in all subjects with this thalassemia condition. Protein structural analyses failed to demonstrate any trace of the abnormal beta chain, even in reticulocytes and nucleated red cells that were isolated by density gradient centrifugation. The inclusion bodies appear to contain mainly normal alpha chains. It is assumed that the structure of the beta-Geneva chain prevents it from combining with normal alpha chains; this results in a rapid breakdown of the abnormal protein during the early stages of red cell maturation and an accumulation of free alpha chains.