Junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB) is an autosomal recessive skin blistering disease with both lethal and nonlethal forms, with most patients shown to have defects in laminin-5. We analyzed the location of mutations, gene expression levels, and protein chain assembly of the laminin-5 heterotrimer in six JEB patients to determine how the type of genetic lesion influences the pathophysiology of JEB. Mutations within laminin-5 genes were diversely located, with the most severe forms of JEB correlating best with premature termination codons, rather than mapping to any particular protein domain. In all six JEB patients, the laminin-5 assembly intermediates we observed were as predicted by our previous work indicating that the α3β3γ2 heterotrimer assembles intracellularly via a β3γ2 heterodimer intermediate. Since assembly precedes secretion, mutations that disrupt protein-protein interactions needed for assembly are predicted to limit the secretion of laminin-5, and likely to interfere with function. However, our data indicate that typically the most severe mutations diminish mRNA stability, and serve as functional null alleles that block chain assembly by resulting in either a deficiency (in the nonlethal mitis variety) or a complete absence (in lethal Herlitz-JEB) of one of the chains needed for laminin-5 heterotrimer assembly.