Two unstable hemoglobins (Hbs) causing rather severe hemolytic anemia have been characterized. The beta chain of Hb Birmingham, found in an adult black man, is characterized by the loss of -Leu-Ala-His-Lys- at positions 141, 142, 143, and 144 and their replacement by one Gln residue. These changes are the result of a deletion of nine nucleotides, namely two base pairs (bp) of codon 141, all of codons 142 and 143, and one bp of codon 144; the remaining CAG triplet (C from codon 141 and AG from codon 144) codes for the inserted glutamine. In the beta chain of Hb Galicia from a Spanish patient, His and Val at positions 97 and 98 are replaced by one Leu residue. This is due to an ACG deletion in codons 97 and 98, which causes the removal of one His and one Val residue, while the remaining CTG triplet (C from codon 97 and TG from codon 98) codes for the inserted leucine residue. Two mechanisms, namely slipped mispairing in the presence of short repeats, and misreading by DNA polymerase due to a local distortion of the DNA helix, are considered in explaining the origin of the small deletions.