Glucose-6-PHOSPHATE dehydrogenase (G6PD; EC 184.108.40.206) deficiency is the most common human enzymopathy, affecting more than 200 million people worldwide. Although greater than 400 variants have been described based on clinical and biochemical criteria, little is known about the molecular basis of these G6PD deficiencies. Recently, the gene that encodes human G6PD has been cloned and sequenced, which enables us to examine directly the heterogeneity of G6PD at the DNA level. During the past 10 years, we examined the G6PD activity in 21,271 newborn Chinese infants (11,400 males and 9,871 females) and identified 314 (2.8%) males and 246 (2.5%) females having low G6PD activity. The G6PD gene from 10 randomly selected affected individuals and their relatives was polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplified, subcloned, and sequenced. Our results indicate that at least four types of mutation are responsible for the G6PD polymorphism in Taiwan. The first type of mutation (487 G----A) was found in an affected Chinese with a G to A change at nucleotide 487, which results in a (163)Gly to Ser substitution. The second type of mutation (493 A----G) is a novel mutation that has not been reported in any other ethnic group and was identified in two affected Chinese. This mutation causes an A to G change at nucleotide position 493, producing an (165)Asn to Asp substitution. Interestingly, the 487 G----A and 493 A----G mutations create Alu I and Ava II recognition sites, respectively, which enabled us to rapidly detect these two mutations by PCR/restriction enzyme (RE) digestion method. The third mutation (1376 G----T) was found in four affected Chinese. This mutation causes a G to T change at nucleotide position 1376 that results in an (459)Arg to Leu substitution. The 1376 G----T mutation seems to be the dominant allele that causes G6PD deficiency in Taiwan. Finally, two affected Chinese were identified as having the fourth mutation (1388 G----A). This mutation causes a G to A change at nucleotide 1388 that produces an (463)Arg to His substitution. Our studies provide the direct proof of the genetic heterogeneity of G6PD deficiency in the Chinese populations of Taiwan and the PCR/RE digestion method is suitable for simultaneous detection of the 487 G----A and 493 A----G mutations.