An Argentinian family with hereditary elliptocytosis (HE) associated with a shortened beta-spectrin (Sp) chain was studied. As with most of the other shortened Sp beta-chains that have been described, this variant, called SpTandil, has impaired ability to participate in Sp dimer self-association, has lost its ability to become phosphorylated, and is associated with the presence of increased amounts of the alpha I 74-Kd fragment after partial tryptic digestion of Sp. The 3′ ends of the beta-Sp gene of affected patients were analyzed. cDNA was prepared by reverse transcription of peripheral blood mRNA and amplified by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using primers corresponding to sequences 400 bp apart on the cDNA, spanning the last three exons (X, Y, Z) of the beta-Sp gene. Agarose gel electrophoresis of the cDNA amplification showed the presence of one band, the size of which was apparently the same as the band amplified from mRNA of a normal control. cDNA from one HE patient was subcloned and sequenced. Several clones showed the presence of a 7-bp deletion at codon 2041 in exon X. Genomic DNA of all the affected members of the family were amplified by PCR using primers flanking the deletion and corresponding to sequences 128 bp apart on exon X. Analysis of the PCR products using electrophoresis on polyacrylamide gel showed the presence of 121- and 128-bp bands in all HE subjects, and an additional doublet migrating more slowly than the two bands, which corresponded to the presence of heteroduplexes. The mutation results in a shift of the normal reading frame and leads to a new amino acid sequence at the C-terminus of the mutant beta-Sp chain. A new in-frame stop codon is encountered downstream, leading to premature chain termination. The identification of the molecular defect in Sp beta Tandil provides information regarding the region of the beta-Sp chain that is important for both Sp dimer self-association and an indication of potential sites of phosphorylation of the chain.