Spectrin Tunis (Sp alpha I/78) is an alpha l domain variant that causes asymptomatic elliptocytosis in the heterozygote state. It is manifested by a reduction of spectrin dimer self-association and by the development of a major 78-Kd fragment at the expense of the alpha l 80- Kd fragment upon spectrin-limited digestion. Amino acid sequence analysis, following peptide transfer onto Immobilon membranes, showed that the 78-Kd fragment results from a sensitized cleavage after lysyl residue 10. Using a 13.5-kb genomic alpha-spectrin probe and the Xbal, Pvull, and Mspl polymorphic sites detected with this probe, we concluded that spectrin Tunis is associated with the + - + haplotype (in the above order). Twenty mer oligonucleotides, complementary to genomic segments from introns 2 and 3, respectively, were synthesized. We then performed DNA amplification and sequencing. In the two investigated carriers of spectrin Tunis, we found the C----T base substitution of the codon corresponding to position 35 of the alpha l domain (CGG----TGG; Arg----Trp). The mutation lies in the last part of an alpha helix that extends from residues 9 to 44 of partial repeat alpha 1′ and is comparable with helix 3 of full repeats 1 to 5. The modified proteolytic site, located 25 amino acid residues upstream, occurs at the beginning of the helix.