The present study was undertaken to determine whether differences among Alport kindreds in the antigenic phenotypes of their basement membranes result from defects at distinct genetic loci or from allelic mutations at a single locus. We analyzed linkage of the Alport gene to polymorphic loci on the X chromosome in three families with Alport syndrome. In two of the families, epidermal basement membranes of affected members showed altered immunohistologic reactivity with a discriminating antibody (FNS1) that identified a 26 kD peptide in the NC1 domain of basement membrane collagen. In the third family epidermal basement membranes of affected individuals reacted normally with the antibody. The disease gene mapped to the Xq21-q22 region of the long arm of the X chromosome in the two families with altered basement membrane antigenicity and in the family with normal basement membrane antigens. We conclude that Alport syndrome in each of these kindreds arose from allelic mutations at a single genetic locus, although we cannot at this time exclude the possibility that two or more tightly linked genes are involved. As the genes for the known chains of type IV collagen are on chromosome 13, our findings suggest that the Alport gene may encode a new basement membrane collagen chain.