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The cytochrome P450 enzyme debrisoquine 4-hydroxylase metabolizes many different classes of commonly used drugs, such as antidepressants and neuroleptics. Deficient hydroxylation of debrisoquine, known as the poor metabolizer (PM) phenotype, affects 5- 10% of Caucasians and may lead to adverse reactions upon administration of drugs in standard doses. This autosomal recessive metabolic deficiency is caused by the possession of two PM-associated mutations in the human CYP2D6 gene locus coding for the enzyme. These mutations include at least four different single base mutations and two different large gene deletion alleles. The single base mutations can be rapidly detected by PCR methods. In contrast, the large gene deletions have so far only been directly identified by RFLP analysis. By the use of sequence data previously published by others, we report here an alignment of different CYP2D alleles to focus on the presence of almost completely identical sequences immediately downstream of both CYP2D7 and CYP2D6 which may seriously complicate and interfere with PCR-based detection of the gene deletion. Based on this analysis, we have developed a rapid assay which, for the first time, detects the 13kb (also called 11.5 kb) Xba I gene deletion allele by the use of long-PCR technology. The primers were designed to amplify a 3.5 kb PCR product in the presence of this D6(D) allele. We have evaluated the method on 23 different DNA samples heterozygous (n=22) or homozygous (n=1) for the 13 kb gene deletion allele (previously typed by RFLP analyses). All samples were correctly identified by the assay. The PCR method did not detect the rare 11 kb Xba I gene deletion allele (n=5), and there was no false positive amplification from deletion negative DNA samples (n=47). This sensitive and specific PCR-based assay for detection of the D6(D) allele will improve the scientific and clinical use of CYP2D6 genotyping.