We have now determined the molecular genetic basis for the common biochemical polymorphism at the adenosine deaminase (ADA) locus. The ADA*2 allele contains a G to A transition at nt22 (relative to the ATG) that results in substitution of asparagine for aspartic acid at codon 8 (Asp8Asn). Introduction of the nucleotide substitution into an ADA 1 cDNA and transfection into monkey kidney (Cos) cells confirmed that the mutation resulted in expression of an enzyme that comigrated with the naturally occurring ADA 2 allozyme. The substitution of neutral asparagine for anionic aspartic acid is consistent with the more cathodal electrophoretic migration of ADA 2 as compared with ADA 1. The nucleotide substitution was found on at least two different genetic backgrounds, suggesting independent recurrence of the mutation. Consistent with independent recurrence, the G to A transition is at a CpG dinucleotide and represents a type of mutation that occurs with high frequency. We have also unexpectedly identified a probable intragenic crossover in the very large first intron that is rich in repetitive DNA sequences.